New Downtown Fresno Italian eatery owner now his own boss

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Rafael Ramirez, owner and chef of Valentino’s in Downtown Fresno’s Galleria, preps a meal Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Frank Lopez

published on November 23, 2022 – 2:35 PM
Written by Frank Lopez

The owner of a new Italian eatery in Downtown Fresno is realizing his dream of becoming his own boss.

Valentino’s opened in October in the Galleria, occupying the space of former Italian restaurant Ragazzo’s.

Valentino’s offers Italian entrée classics including lasagna, linguini & clams, angel hair pasta, linguini Alfredo and foot-long subs. A breakfast menu from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. includes bacon & egg croissants, spinach quiche, butter croissants and other breakfast pastries.

“It’s a small, minute menu, but that’s because we have two hours to get 80% of our income [per day],” said owner Rafael Ramirez. “We downsized the menu to make sure it would fit what the community needs for lunch — quick.”

Ramirez took over the lease in September and started with an Oct. 15. Soft opening. The plan is to forego any big grand opening event, start off small and remain consistent.

Ramirez runs Valentino’s with his daughters, Gracie, 35, who also handles finances and accounting, and Amanda, 39, who helps run the restaurant’s social media accounts.

Gracie helps her father in the kitchen as well.

Ramirez said rent for the space totals about $1,700 per month.

Since opening, Ramirez said some days are slower than others, but Valentino’s has established a base clientele of professionals and city workers.

Ramirez has more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, mostly in the front of the house, but he always made sure to familiarize himself with every facet of a restaurant, including the kitchen.

“I always made it a point to learn the kitchen—you have to,” Ramirez said. “Someone calls in sick or something, you have to get in there.”

He said he learned a lot working in the kitchen at Slates Restaurant alongside iconic Fresno Chef Roy Harland, who used to own Harland’s Restaurant in the Fig Garden Village.

“He was the one that taught me about the kitchen, the proper way of cooking, cooking with pride, cooking with love and make sure everybody knows what you’re doing,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez chose to go with an Italian menu because he has the most experience with that cuisine.

The sauces and lasagna are made daily, and the meats are grilled daily to have the freshest ingredients for the dishes, Ramirez said.

Valentino’s also offers rentals for private parties and offers to-go catering for dinners of up to 18 people.

Valentino’s is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ramirez is happy to finally realize his dream of becoming a business owner and being his own boss.

“If things go all wrong, it’s on me. If it goes well, it’s on me. I take full responsibility. I can’t blame anyone else or give anyone else credit,” Ramirez said.

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