I posted a query about Valentina's, a new Italian restaurant in Bernal Heights, a few days ago on this board and got no replies. So last night six of us braved into the unknown territory and went there for dinner.
Valentina's, which has been open since January, has replaced a Hungarian restaurant on Cortland Ave. The decor hasn't changed much. It still has that wine cave sort of look with a few stark modern paintings on the walls.
It was Saturday night and the place got pretty full at various times throughout the night. Service was OK. I liked our on-the-ball Italian waitress.
The food, I must say with regret, is competent but nothing special. Several dishes on the menu claim to be Ligurian but I didn't see anything that I haven't seen before in dozens of generic Italian restaurants in the Bay Area. The choices in apps were quite boring; we picked what we thought was the most interesting (caprese and an antipasto plate). Both dishes were bland (I realize this is not the time of the year for tomatos, but there really wasn't anything fun to pick from the apps list) and very timid in their use of spices and condiments. I wish they splashed some sharp vinegar or some balsamic. The antipasto dish had a bunch of grilled eggplants, some bruschetta pieces and some basil. We also had a totally forgettable house salad and a what-they-called primavera soup, which turned out to be a fairly heavy and mild pureed-vegetables soup.
For mains, one of us had a pretty good, but nothing remarkable, small plain pizza. We ordered two gnocchi dishes (one with a tomato sauce, another with a pesto sauce) which were quite light, but the sauces didn't enhance them much. We also ordered decent eggplant parmigian and two portions of the rabbit dish. The rabbit dish, which was mild and, as they say, tasted like chicken, had some roasted potatos and polenta on the side which were pretty good.
For desert, we skipped all the cliche standards and had a couple of espresso-chocolate wedges. The wedges were quite "chocolaty" but I didn't detect any espresso flavor. Also, they had some whipped-cream on the side, which I'm not a fan of.
Prices ranged between $6 and $9 for the apps. The pastas and the mains were between $11 and $14. Valentina's doesn't have a liquor license yet so you can bring your own wine with no corkage.
Overall, it was OK. You won't get bad food but there was nothing to distinguish this place. Perhaps, as they get more comfortable in this location, they'll get more creative and bold in their cooking.