Two Italians

VALENZA & VERO

When Brookhavenites find themselves craving authentic Italian pasta and pizza—which is often, thanks to restaurateur Michel Arnette and Executive Chef Matt Swickerath—you’ll find them happily tucked away at a table off a quaint stretch of Dresden Drive, at sister restaurants Valenza Italian and Vero Pizzeria.

Arnette and Swickerath have been collaborating to bring old world ambience and flavor to the neighborhood ever since Arnette launched his first restaurant after years building expertise in the hospitality industry. Their combination of classic and modern cooking, locally grown ingredients, and seasonally rotating dishes have made them a tried-and-true favorite with diners.

In Valenza’s upscale yet cozy dining room, guests are surrounded by the warmth and elegance of a village café, where expertly chosen wines flow and live music fills the air. Venetian plastered walls blend with rustic oak and pine furnishings, and European chandeliers bathe turn-of-the-century architectural accents in a warm glow. Though the atmosphere is exactly what you’d want for a romantic dinner or gathering with old friends, the food is the clear reason you’ll find yourself making excuses for those romantic dinners and gatherings as often as possible. The menu features a full spread of Tuscan deliciousness, with antipasti followed by pitch-perfect pastas and entrees (insider tip: don’t miss the scallops or bucatini). With a beautiful patio lit by string lights for dining al fresco in good weather and a weekly “Notte di Famiglia” Sunday supper, Valenza is full of thoughtful touches that will have you feeling nostalgic before you’ve even finished your caffe corretto and strawberry crostata.

Guests can watch Valenza’s signature pastas being made by hand next door at the restaurant’s beloved younger sibling Vero. Featuring weathered wood and unique lighting, the interior echoes of Valenza’s while highlighting the star of the show, a 3-ton Acunto pizza oven cast from the volcanic rock clay of Mount Vesuvius and custom-built for the restaurant. Hot enough to cook each pizza in two minutes, the oven turns out thin-crust pies with the hallmark char and perfect crunchy-chewy balance every Napolitano pizza purist looks for. Taking a cue from the success of Valenza’s Sunday night tradition, Vero celebrates its status as a true family favorite with its Sunday evening pizza-and-gelato combos for kids under twelve, compliments of the house, along with drink specials for the adults.

Though the pizzas are undoubtedly the reason for your first visit, Vero’s salads just might be the hook that keeps you coming back, and some regulars insist it’s not a Vero visit without one. The namesake salad, Vero’s take on a classic Greek salad with pickled onions and fresh herbs, pairs perfectly with any pizza. Insider tip #2: if you’re a spice lover, ask your server for a hit of the Calabrian chili oli to add some kick to your evening before ending the night on an almost impossibly perfect note with an order of homemade cannoli filled with clouds of whipped ricotta and pistachio.

At either restaurant, don’t be surprised if Arnette or Swickerath stops by your table to chat, check on your meal, or strike up the kind of hospitable conversation that makes even a first-time visitor feel like one of the family. The welcome is genuine and it’s part of what gives Brookhaven experiences a sense of belonging that lingers long after the evening ends.