"I came to this country and knew very little about food. Finally I opened a restaurant in 1972, an Italian-American restaurant. You know, baked clams, that sort of thing. Then I separated from my business partner, and I wanted to revisit what we could do. I wanted to find out what it would take for me to learn about Italian food, so I go to Italy and met with a major journalist who took me to a restaurant.
He suggested we get carpaccio with truffles - it was the beginning of September - and I thought, 'How is he going to put little chocolate candies on top of meat?' I’m looking at this thing; I had never eaten raw meat in my life. But then that incredible pungent aroma hit me, and I went crazy for the flavor. I learned there about this incredible thing called white truffle. How little I knew about these things.
People didn't know why you pay what you pay for something as aromatic as this. They didn't know what to say at the time, when we offered them as a $20 supplement. I had to explain that they weren't chocolate truffles, but a perfect little miracle that happens in the rainy season in Alba, when the soil is wet and the dogs are unleashed to sniff them out. They didn't believe me. But once they tried them, quite a few people started realizing. Truffles in the U.S. started becoming a reality.
Truffles became more and more part of what Valentino was, especially back then because they weren’t very popular. They weren't as accessible. I say they are biggest gift of Italian gastronomy. We'll say we have spectacular tomatoes, whatever you want to say. But truffles are it. They are one of the greatest delicacies."