UPDATE: I am making this post sticky for the time being, as I will be speaking with Shredd & Ragan on WEDG 103.3 on Tuesday morning (click the link to listen live) around 8am regarding the Valenti’s Restaurant saga. Follow-up posts exist here, here, and here. As with any story, if you want to provide information confidentially, send an email to buffalopundit[at]gmail.com.
Yes, it’s media criticism Monday.
On Friday, The Buffalo News’ venerable, legendary restaurant reviewer Janice Okun gave a new Italian red sauce joint in North Tonawanda, “Valenti’s” 2.5 stars.
(I don’t know why literally every single Okun review involves a half-star, either.)
In that review, which was predictably yet unfortunately devoid of good feedback about the food or its flavor, Okun made the following observations:
Co-owner (with his wife, Lori) and Chef Terry Valenti is a Western New York boy recently returned home from Texas and Florida — he cooked at Mama Leone’s in Manhattan and in resorts in Daytona. In 2003 he took on uber-chef Bobby Flay on the popular “Iron Chef” program. Knocked the socks off him, too.
“It was the parsnips that did it,” says Lori. For the show, Terry produced Chilean Sea Bass stuffed with that vegetable (and artichoke hearts for good measure). He even dreamed up a Mango Parsnip Ice Cream that went over very well.
In the days since that was published, we’ve established the following:
1. Iron Chef America (featuring Bobby Flay) didn’t exist in 2003.
2. The list of Iron Chef America episodes reveals no competitor with the surname “Valenti” challenging any Iron Chef, ever.
3. The list of Iron Chef (Japan) episodes reveals no competitor with the surname “Valenti” challenging any Iron Chef, ever.
4. The aforementioned episode lists from America and Japan reveal that there has never been an Iron Chef “battle parsnip” in either series.
5. Mr. Valenti claims to have graduated from the CIA in 1993 and then became head chef at Mamma Leone’s.
7. A March 2009 health inspection of Captain Hiram’s, where Valenti had been working for 4 months at the time, is shown here. These should be made public for New York eateries, as well.
Aside from the massive question marks over the chef/owner’s alleged backstory, can someone explain to me why the photos that accompany these restaurant reviews seldom show the actual food? The Valenti’s story depicts four women outside the restaurant bidding each other good-bye, two of whom have to-go boxes. All I can gather from the image is that Valenti’s has a nice sidewalk. As for Okun, she gushes over the comfort of a restaurant’s booths, but we have no idea whether the veal is any good.