In 1990s I discovered a classical guitar in my parents’ basement and a book filled with thousands of guitar chords. I took an unconventional route by learning the most complex chord structures I could find. This foreshadowed my decisions as a musician. I constantly feel this need to try things that are different. It benefits and hurts my music but makes it distinctly my own. Axes: Fender Standard American Strat, Agile AL-3100 w/ Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers, Kapa Continental, Takamine EG540C.
In 1993, I began writing for the Fresh Ink section of the Philadelphia Daily News until moving on to be the Editor-in-Chief of Saint Joseph’s University’s The Hawk. In 2002, I started working for the Colorado Daily and freelancing for various publications. I ran a niche sports blog with over 9k Twitter followers, 30k unique visitors, etc. Formerly, I helped found Flyers Faithful LLC, Pattison Ave.
As a the first-born first-generation son of an Italian family, I was not allowed to lift a finger in the kitchen Still, I was encouraged to get not one but two restaurant summer jobs when I was 12. My love affair with cooking began immediately. Over the years, I accumulated family recipes that were passed down through the generations. I will highlight those recipes at my first retail location, Valente's Italian Specialties.
Paola and Corrado Valente left the small town of Bisenti in the region of Abruzzo behind for a better life in America. They arrived in the United States on Independence Day with their two children, Santa Bianca and Gaetano. As the story goes, Paola was elated as they approached the Eastern shores. To her, America was truly a land of opportunity, as evidenced by the grand display of fireworks everyone put on for her birthday, July 4.
While this was likely a fictitious tale passed down through the years throughout the family, it exemplifies what Valente’s is all about; keeping family history alive.
My name is Marcello. Paola was my Nonna and Santa was my Mother. I was lucky enough to have both of them around me every day and along with them came amazing food. The stove was constantly on and we were spoiled from day one with amazing food, whether it was a chicken cutlet sandwich for your school lunch, maccheroni alla chitarra for dinner, or “square soup” (quadretti) on a sick day. My dad’s clients were fed an endless stream of chicken cutlets and our friends were always in a food coma from eating so much gnocchi.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth but it sure did feel like I was born twirling bucatini around a fork. Since I lost the matriarchs of our family, I have not stopped trying to get that feeling back.
I spent years cooking in restaurants. I’ve made the desserts, the fresh pasta in the morning, the drinks behind the bar, expedited in front of the line. I’ve worked in Italian bakeries and at Italian Specialty stores. I have fond memories from each but nothing will ever top the days of helping Nonna make scrippelle soup or being my mom’s official cutlet taster, though.
Since my kids were old enough to reach the countertop, I began cooking with them. We make sauces, pasta, soufflés, ice creams, and whatever else comes to our mind. I love it. It’s the highlight of every day I get the opportunity to do it.
Valente’s brings all of that full circle. The memories of my mom and Nonna remain alive while my children, wife and I get to build new memories as we grow our family business. I could not wish for anything more than combining my passion for making food with my love for my family.