Getting to know you: Valentina Chiswick

What do you currently do?
We are purveyors of quality Italian foods which are connected to our seven locations around London and Surrey. All of our sites are home to a delicatessen and a restaurant. Our delis offer meats, cheeses, wines, beers, sweets, savories and a whole manner of pantry and store cupboard items.

Our seven sites are based in London, Surrey and Kent, located in Putney, Sheen, Notting Hill, Sevenoaks, Weybridge, Reigate and most recently we have opened our newest site in Chiswick, West London.

Today, the team is spearheaded by third generation family members, Fabio, Gabriella, Antonio, Marco and Carmine. All of which share their passion for Italian food and this really is evident throughout all of our stores.

What is your inspiration in business?
To grow a successful and truly authentic Italian restaurant chain that provides our customers with not only great tasting food and wine, but also ingredients and produce that stay true to the Italian cuisine that we founded Valentina on.

We do not only want to inspire our customers whilst they’re eating at one of our restaurants, we also take great pride in our customers recreating the experience they have had at Valentina back home by paying our delicatessens a visit on their way out.

Who do you admire?
I admire Lord Charles Forte. He was born as Carmine Forte in Mortale, now Monforte, Casalattico, in the province of Frosinone, Italy in 1908. At 26, he set up his first “milk bar” in 1935, the Strand Milk Bar Ltd, in Regent Street, London, having thoroughly researched the location. Soon he began expanding into catering and hotel businesses. Forte was knighted by The Queen Mother in 1970 and awarded a life peerage in 1982 as Baron Forte, of Ripley in the County of Surrey. He was also a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

I admire him because he is a good role model of a true Italian businessman.

Looking back would you have done things differently?
If I had been more bullish, I would have bought bigger sites initially because the delicatessen side of the business has proven to be a big success and we would have loved to been able offer our customers the deli items on a much larger scale.

What defines your way of doing business?
It is very democratic – family members all have a voice and so we all sit down to discuss issues and find solutions together. Whether we are discussing the day to day running of a particular location, staffing, produce or menu items we all decide together on the best outcome. There is no I in team. The only I we all know is the I in Italian food…!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Be passionate about your ideas and what you want your business to stand for, be adventurous and creative as there are so many people doing so many different things in the modern culinary world and especially London. But first and foremost make sure that you are well-funded…!