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A Five-Course Triumph

Val+Tino deftly blends Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. 

The five-course tasting menu at the recently opened Val+tino in Fort Lauderdale aims to raise the standard of dining in the area to rival the finest dining in the country. One bite into the first course, and it was clear the restaurant delivers on its goal with a perfect fusion of Italian and Mediterranean flavors.

If the Val+tino name and 620 S. Federal Highway location sound familiar, there’s a perfectly good explanation. Valentino Cucina Italiana operated in the same building that now houses Canyon and Rio’s Tequila Bar just south of the New River Tunnel. The new Val+tino can seat about 100 diners in an elegantly reconfigured layout with Canyon and Rio’s Tequila Bar on one side and Val+tino on the other.

The restaurant is part of SFL Hospitality Group, led by Owner Mike Linder, who is the subject of a feature story in this issue. Linder’s extensive collection of restaurants includes South PMP Bar & Kitchen in Pompano Beach’s historic downtown, YOT along the New River in Fort Lauderdale and Jet Runway Café at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. 

Val+tino takes the fine dining concept to a whole new level with a delicious chef-curated, five-course tasting menu that rotates quarterly. It allows guests to taste and experience the most popular dishes on the à la carte menu, with each dish perfectly complementing each other. 

“We want to create a dining experience rivaling what is in New York and Miami but do it at a level that I don’t think anyone is doing here in Fort Lauderdale,” Linder says. “It’s been a huge hit and success, and we just want to continue to elevate and perfect everything with the entire dining experience.”

Val+Tino Executive Chef de Cuisine Jake Abbott has experience at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City. He worked with renowned chefs such as Joe Anthony and Laurent Tourendel. His search for technical mastery led him to 2-Michelin Star Chef Gabriel Kreuther. Now, he is bringing New York culinary nuances to South Florida.

Wanting to experience what the buzz was behind the chef’s tasting menu, I delved straight into the first course with a vigor that was completely satisfied. A tender Amberjack fish was first brought out and prepared beautifully with a tangy sweetness that set the standard for a night of the finest dining Fort Lauderdale has to offer. 

The second course offered a mouthwatering tortelli with brown butter and sage for a genuine masterpiece concoction. The pasta nearly melted with each bite for a heavenly combination. The next item was a crisp and flaky grouper topped with a rich Billi Bi curry sauce that provided a spicy touch. 

The fourth course quickly became my favorite. Succulent duck breast was expertly cooked to a tender perfection. A sweet potato puree and tangy soy glaze brought a distinct flavor I’ve never experienced but would certainly like to replicate. 

Duck

As if the culinary tasting couldn’t get any better, each bite was perfectly complemented by an extensive wine list selected by Stephan Cole, a veteran sommelier. With over 125 bottles to choose from, the skilled and knowledgeable sommelier was on the floor and made the selection process simple, which enhanced the night’s offerings. 

Finally, the coconut dessert was the perfect ending to an unforgettable meal. The refreshing pineapple and pavana sorbet provided a sweet and satisfying conclusion to an evening filled with culinary delights.

Combining SFL’s Hospitality Group’s commitment to service, food and location with Abbott’s extensive experience in New York City’s Michelin-starred restaurants made for a fine-dining experience not easily replicated in Fort Lauderdale. From the impeccable service to the exquisite flavors and presentation, every aspect of the meal exceeded my expectations, making Val+tino a genuine Fort Lauderdale gem in the culinary world.

Photos by Schneider Photography & Film

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.