Popular restaurant wins big at the Italian Awards in Manchester

A popular Italian restaurant won a prestigious title at the 6th annual Italian awards and was highly commended in two other categories at the award ceremony on Sunday,

By Shawna Healey
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 9:07 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 2:27 pm
Gina with famous chef, Aldo Zillio, and Rebecca.
Gina with famous chef, Aldo Zillio, and Rebecca.

Valentino’s Wakefield, found on Leeds Road, Outwood, won best Best Family Friendly Italian Restaurant and was commended in the Pasta Chef and the Best Chef of the Year categories.

The best Italian chefs from all over the country gathered at the Hilton Deansgate in Manchester in the hopes of taking home a prestigious award for their work.

The restaurant, which won the Wakefield Express Italian of the Year in 2018, was among 12 restaurants up for the award.

Restaurants were all visited ahead of the awards ceremony with menus scrutinised and offerings taste tested in the search for the best Italians across categories spanning the industry.

The restaurant has been established in Wakefield for over 15 years but Shuhina’ Khanum, and her husband, Afy, took over the business two years ago during the pandemic.

They were given the top honour for their efforts to make child guests as welcome as possible.

Since taking over the business, they have run competitions for their young guests including a rainbow drawing competition and a pizza topping design contest with the best looking pizza being added to their menus.

Restaurant manager, Gina, said she didn't expect to win and was overwhelmed when Valentino’s was announced as the winner.

She said: “We were nominated by our customers for the awards.

“We were judged on what we do for kids, what we have on our menu and what sets us apart from other restaurants. We genuinely care about customers.

“During lockdown, we set up a pizza design competition and the winners had their creation on our menus.

“We didn't expect to win so it came as a shock. When we didn't hear our names called as the runner up, we thought there was no way we would win but when they announced us, we were overwhelmed.”

Their pasta chef, Rebecca Riley, 18, has only been working at the restaurant for six months and was highly commended in the Pasta Chef category.

Working full time, Rebecca also studies at Wakefield College where she is on track to go to university to study to become a fully qualified chef.