My family has an annual tradition of enjoying a celebratory "Mellon family meal" to commemorate the many birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that fall between October and December. This year, we reveled in classical Italian perfection at Valentino in Santa Monica, where Piero Selvaggio -- the restaurant's dapper owner and consummate host -- greeted us as warmly as if we were his very own kin. The restaurant's elegant dining room offered the perfect setting for our jubilation, which involved pre-dinner cocktails, incredible bottles of wine, and culinary excellence -- straight from prosciutto and crudo appetizer; to a beautiful Chestnut Pappardelle special shared family-style; to succulent, tender and expertly prepared Sea Scallops in Lobster sauce; finishing with two communal desserts, tiramisu and budino alla vaniglia (vanilla) -- both delicious -- and a Fernet for my brother. As a foursome who doesn't mind sharing tastes -- in fact, we adore that -- there were discreet forks and bread plates covertly passed back and forth, allowing us all bites of Ossobuco and risotto al parmigiano and the night's veal chop, too. With its impeccable service and stellar cuisine, it's evident why this charming Italian restaurant has been a West Side staple for over forty years, and I look forward to the many similarly perfect special meals there in the years to come!