The End of Valenti's Restaurant

Yesterday afternoon, North Tonawanda City Court Judge William Lewis awarded Frank Budwey a warrant of eviction against Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Restaurant, and a money judgment for $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in costs and attorney’s fees.  Valenti’s has 30 days to appeal. 

The unusually long and contentious eviction trial took place over two days, and ended one of the more bizarre restaurant stories in recent memory. Just five short weeks ago, veteran Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun lauded the volume of Valenti’s portions and booths, awarding it 2 1/2 stars. In that review, Okun repeated boasts that co-owners Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio had made about Valenti’s work history, including a wild claim that Valenti had defeated Bobby Flay on the TV program Iron Chef America with an award-winning dish of sea bass stuffed with artichokes and parsnips – quite possibly the most exotic “haute cuisine” Valenti could imagine. 

But Valenti’s had bigger problems than just a cook with a false resume. Although Budwey had waived the rent for part of October and all of November, he fully expected payment for December and January at $3,000 per month. By late December, Valenti’s still owed that month’s rent, and was losing purveyor accounts for non-payment. Valenti and Brocuglio paid Budwey $300 around that timeDoctored receipt, and a dispute arose at trial whether they paid $500 or $1500 in cash in early January. The court found that Valenti’s had, in fact, paid $500, because Budwey presented contemporaneous evidence of the cash deposits in both his business ledger and his bank records. He claimed that Lori Brocuglio, who admitted writing “payment in full” on the receipt also doctored it to read $1,500 instead of $500.  

The legal issue is that accepting money as “payment in full” would have potentially bound Budwey to that figure for rents then due and owing. The judge found, however, that other communications from clearly showed that he did not intend to be so bound. Around the same time the receipt was given, a Valenti’s check was made out to Frank “Budway” for $3,000.  Much of Tuesday’s trial centered around how Budwey got the check, and who wrote it. Budwey said either Lori or Terry gave it to him, and he took it to M&T, where he discovered that it would not clear. Budwey then turned the check over to the authorities, and Brocuglio awaits trial on misdemeanor charges of knowingly passing a bad check. 

Here is an example of a check that Brocuglio admits to having written: 

Compare that to the disputed $3,000 rent check that took up so much testimony and argument at trial: 

The mis-spelling of Budway’s name matches Brocuglio’s clumsily constructed Facebook page from last week. 

In rendering his decision, Judge Lewis said that “Brocuglio’s claims fly in the face of the testimony and documents”. He found that it was disingenuous for her to suggest that Budwey forged the check.  Brocuglio likely didn’t realize that Budwey had kept two voice mails she left for him in early January. In the first message, which was played for the judge in court, Brocuglio acknowledges that Terry Valenti had given the check to Budwey, and asks him not to cash it. She said that they would pay the rent via certified funds instead. However, the next day Brocuglio called again, and had completely changed her story.  In a second voice mail played for the judge in court, Brocuglio got a message that Budwey had tried to cash the check, and was notified that the police were now involved. In both calls, she alluded to getting a lawyer to go after Budwey, but now denies knowing of any check, implying that Budwey stole or forged it. 

Brocuglio also claimed that Budwey had agreed to waive the rent for December and January, but the documentary evidence directly contradicted that testimony. 

Brocuglio claimed to the judge that they were ready, willing, and able to pay the rent, but that a dispute that arose with Brocuglio’s nominal “partner” in the business, Melissa Janiszewski, had tied up the bank account. Janiszewski spoke to me in court and disputed this claim, stating that she had no signing privileges on the account, was not named on the account, and that Brocuglio and Valenti had deliberately kept her in the dark about the business’ finances. It was also revealed that Janiszewski, a legal co-owner in the Valenti’s venture, was not named on the lease. Since there’s a money judgment arising out of that lease, she’s rather lucky in this respect, but it indicates that as early as the formation of the business, Valenti and Brocuglio appeared to be conspiring to use Janiszewski as an unwitting pawn in a scheme to run up credit with no intention of repayment. Instead, an old DBA of Terry Valenti’s dating back a decade, the sex-toy-shop-sounding “Desires Unlimited” was listed on the lease as DBA Valenti’s Restaurant. However, a DBA is merely a business name – it is not a legal entity. That’s why the name of a person or corporation precedes the letters “DBA” on legal documents. In this case, however, regardless of the illegality of one DBA doing business as another DBA, Lori Brocuglio signed the lease as a personal guarantor. 

In a dramatic twist in the middle of the trial, Terry Valenti, who looked quite different without his facial hair and bandanna, was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and did not return. Mr. Valenti was apprehended by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office on a felony warrant for forgery originating from Midland County, Texas. After losing his job at Captain Hiram’s in Florida, Valenti moved to Texas, where he cooked at a retirement community in Odessa. Valenti stands accused of forging an ex-girlfriend’s name on a Power of Attorney and title, to fraudulently transfer a motor vehicle for his benefit. Mr. Valenti was led out while Ms. Brocuglio stood at trial with her lawyer, and they were advised of Mr. Valenti’s unexpected departure during a break in the proceedings. He awaits extradition proceedings in the Niagara County Jail

After the proceedings, Mr. Budwey suggested that the Valenti defendants waive any right to retrieve belongings from the restaurant property, and that Budwey would in turn waive the money judgment. For his part, Budwey was happy to have his building back, in the hopes that he can now re-rent it to a less dramatic, more competent tenant. Brocuglio and Valenti had boasted of taking Budwey to Supreme Court for damages relating to his alleged self-help and constructive eviction measures, but with Valenti on his way to Texas and Brocuglio now with a $5000+ judgment over her head, and being behind on the rent at her residential apartment in Eden, it is unknown whether any such action will be pursued. 

Sources who contacted me yesterday add to the story – in running their business, Valenti and Brocuglio used fake social security numbers. When one vendor investigated the Valenti’s operators in an effort to secure fees owed, they discovered that staff – when paid – was paid cash or by business check without required withholdings. They also found that Valenti and Brocuglio had a scheme in the works to use the time between service of the notice to quit and the eviction trial to gut the building and auction off all the contents – Budwey’s “self help” prevented that scheme from taking place, but that Valenti had apparently retained an auctioneer for that purpose. 

Valenti’s restaurant is no more. It leaves behind a trail of cheated vendors and ex-partners. From the documents shown in court, it is safe to presume that it was deceitful not only in its operation, but even in its very foundation. I don’t know whether this is a unique situation, or one that is common in every place, all the time. In the end, Valenti’s taught us that lying isn’t a good business plan, and that it doesn’t take much to operate a reasonably successful red sauce joint in a small Niagara County city, as long as you treat your patrons and employees with respect, and serve decent food at a reasonable price. 

The whole saga (so far) is available here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated hereherehereherehere, here, and here.)

 

Valenti’s Goes to Court

If you’re wondering why we’re still following the Valenti’s saga (begun here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated here, here, herehere, here, and here), it’s because the commentariat has weighed in well over 2,500 times. It’s generally the same 10 – 15 commenters adding details, accusations, and trading barbs, but I’ve received lots of positive feedback from people who remain riveted by how a mediocre red sauce joint could generate so much interest and hatred.

Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio took possession of the restaurant property in late September pursuant to a lease that commenced on October 1st. Their landlord, Frank Budwey, agreed to give them two free months’ rent, and also to pay deposits to National Fuel and National Grid to enable Valenti’s to turn those utilities on – they didn’t have the capital to do it.

The restaurant, however, wasn’t in Terry Valenti’s name. Instead, the property was co-owned by Brocuglio and an acquaintance of theirs named Melissa Janiszewski, who has since become estranged from them. There have been allegations made that Janiszewski’s credit and identity were deceitfully misappropriated. In North Tonawanda City Court yesterday, Ms. Janiszewski sat with Mr. Budwey.

Terry Valenti sat in the front row, with three people who were set to testify on the restaurant’s behalf. He was wearing a black button-down shirt, his head was uncovered, and he had shaven off his facial hair, leaving him almost unrecognizable. Ms. Brocuglio arrived soon thereafter, wearing a black specked suit and a red suede fringe jacket. When she sat down, she briefly spoke with their attorney, Mark Carney, and held up some sort of CD-ROM to one of their supporters and seemed proud of it for some reason.

Frank Budwey approached Carney and asked him if he had been paid. Carney replied that it was, “none of [his] business”, and Mr. Budwey retorted that he didn’t want Mr. Carney to waste his time. Under normal circumstances, a lawyer is not permitted to talk with a party opponent in any way, and had I been in Mr. Carney’s shoes I would have simply replied that I was not permitted to speak with Mr. Budwey, remained silent, or advised Budwey’s counsel of the approach.

Judge William Lewis presided over the rather informal eviction trial. Budwey’s attorney, James Rizzo, elicited testimony from Mr. Budwey about the non-payment of rent, now alleged to be $5,200. At one time, Brocuglio wrote Budwey a bad check for $3,000, a crime that is being contemporaneously prosecuted in North Tonawanda Court, and paid Budwey what he says was $500 cash in early January. However, the receipt for that cash shows $1,500 was received – Budwey claims that Brocuglio added the “1”. Judge for yourself:

$500 or $1,500?

Budwey testified that Valenti’s paid utilities for October and November, but not since. He testified that they have never been current on owed rent. On January 13th, Budwey terminated the lease by serving a 3-day notice to quit, and he filed the eviction action a week later.

However, Budwey claims that he crafts his leases to enable him to take self-help measures to secure the property and payment of rent if the tenant is 10 days in arrears. Under that provision, Budwey gives himself the right to enter and secure payment without the lease needing first to be terminated, and without any notice.

That’s exactly what Budwey did on January 11th – 11 days after the January rent was unpaid – he shut off the gas, blocked the doors, politely asked patrons to leave and offered to pay them cash, and wanted to prevent Valenti and Brocuglio the ability to destroy or loot the premises. The police were called, and Budwey relented. On cross-examination by Mr. Carney, Mr. Budwey acknowledged that he had recently changed the locks and the alarm codes. Mr. Carney’s questioning and demeanor were often argumentative (not that he was being rude, but that he was improperly making an argument during questioning), and at one point Carney and Rizzo got into a shouting match that was ended when Judge Lewis did a bit of yelling himself.

Carney made the point to the judge that he intended to remove the case to Supreme Court to pursue a claim against Budwey for self-help, seeking treble damages. Since that hadn’t been accomplished or applied for, Judge Lewis continued with the eviction proceeding.

The eviction is a simple action for Budwey to re-take possession of the unit, terminating the lease. There aren’t many defenses available to a commercial tenant in this situation – either the rent is paid, or it’s not. Valenti and Brocuglio’s claims about Budwey’s alleged illegal self-help are not defenses to the eviction, but a separate action for money damages. It is entirely possible that Budwey wins possession, but that he loses a subsequent trial for money damages in another venue. In speaking with Mr. Budwey, he indicates that he’d gladly pay to be forever rid of Valenti and Brocuglio, and he isn’t concerned about their threats of ongoing litigation.

At one point, I observed Mr. Budwey getting rather animated, requiring his attorney to shush him. I observed Mr. Budwey look directly at the seated Mr. Valenti, and ask him to “come on, speak up!” By contrast, Ms. Brocuglio was standing next to Mr. Carney the entire time, at one point looking back at Ms. Janiszewski and shaking her head at her. When Carney asked Budwey if the Valentis had abandoned the premises, Terry Valenti audibly said, “no”, and Ms. Brocuglio turned around and shushed him.

As Mr. Carney’s cross-examination was briefly halted, the judge sustained Mr. Rizzo’s objection over the line of questioning having to do with the lock-out. Rizzo argued that self-help is irrelevant for purposes of the eviction action, and based on the lease language, the judge agreed. However, the judge had to adjourn the proceeding because of a personal matter, and it will again be taken up at 11am on Tuesday.

As I waited to see if anyone would talk to me (unlikely as they’re all represented by counsel), Ms. Brocuglio approached me. She said, “hi, Alan”, adding, “I’m glad that now you’ve heard more of the story.” She told me that much of what people have left in comments here at Artvoice Daily are lies, and that this is all “from a divorce”. She refused to be interviewed on camera, and was whisked away to talk with her lawyer and supporters.

Before the proceeding, Budwey provided me with this document, which he says shows that even if Valenti’s was allowed to re-open, he’d still owe various creditors thousands.

Budwey told me that, when he went away to Jamaica, he offered to give Terry Valenti a second chance – a blank slate – all he had to do was keep Lori Brocuglio off the premises. Terry told Budwey that he would, but when Budwey left, Brocuglio was present at the restaurant every day. Before going COD with Tarantino and SYSCO, Valenti’s stocked up on over $10,000 of food, and supplemented that with Curtze, the last purveyor who would work with them. When the electric was shut off last week, all that food is now rotting, and the foam flame retardant system was deliberately activated by someone. Mr. Budwey clearly likes Terry Valenti and was willing to work with him, but he reserves a special hatred and disgust for Ms. Brocuglio; whenever he mentioned her name he used exquisitely colorful expletives.

If you pass by Valenti’s Restaurant now – a place that Janice Okun awarded 2 1/2 stars just 5 short week ago – a place supposedly run by an Iron Chef winner and CIA graduate, it now looks like this:

And had they not lied to Brian Kahle, Channel 7, and Janice Okun, no one would be paying them any attention.

http://swfs.bimvid.com/bimvid_player-3_2_7.swf?x-bim-callletters=WKBW

 


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Email me here.

Valenti's Goes to Court

If you’re wondering why we’re still following the Valenti’s saga (begun here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated here, here, herehere, here, and here), it’s because the commentariat has weighed in well over 2,500 times. It’s generally the same 10 – 15 commenters adding details, accusations, and trading barbs, but I’ve received lots of positive feedback from people who remain riveted by how a mediocre red sauce joint could generate so much interest and hatred.

Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio took possession of the restaurant property in late September pursuant to a lease that commenced on October 1st. Their landlord, Frank Budwey, agreed to give them two free months’ rent, and also to pay deposits to National Fuel and National Grid to enable Valenti’s to turn those utilities on – they didn’t have the capital to do it.

The restaurant, however, wasn’t in Terry Valenti’s name. Instead, the property was co-owned by Brocuglio and an acquaintance of theirs named Melissa Janiszewski, who has since become estranged from them. There have been allegations made that Janiszewski’s credit and identity were deceitfully misappropriated. In North Tonawanda City Court yesterday, Ms. Janiszewski sat with Mr. Budwey.

Terry Valenti sat in the front row, with three people who were set to testify on the restaurant’s behalf. He was wearing a black button-down shirt, his head was uncovered, and he had shaven off his facial hair, leaving him almost unrecognizable. Ms. Brocuglio arrived soon thereafter, wearing a black specked suit and a red suede fringe jacket. When she sat down, she briefly spoke with their attorney, Mark Carney, and held up some sort of CD-ROM to one of their supporters and seemed proud of it for some reason.

Frank Budwey approached Carney and asked him if he had been paid. Carney replied that it was, “none of [his] business”, and Mr. Budwey retorted that he didn’t want Mr. Carney to waste his time. Under normal circumstances, a lawyer is not permitted to talk with a party opponent in any way, and had I been in Mr. Carney’s shoes I would have simply replied that I was not permitted to speak with Mr. Budwey, remained silent, or advised Budwey’s counsel of the approach.

Judge William Lewis presided over the rather informal eviction trial. Budwey’s attorney, James Rizzo, elicited testimony from Mr. Budwey about the non-payment of rent, now alleged to be $5,200. At one time, Brocuglio wrote Budwey a bad check for $3,000, a crime that is being contemporaneously prosecuted in North Tonawanda Court, and paid Budwey what he says was $500 cash in early January. However, the receipt for that cash shows $1,500 was received – Budwey claims that Brocuglio added the “1”. Judge for yourself:

$500 or $1,500?

Budwey testified that Valenti’s paid utilities for October and November, but not since. He testified that they have never been current on owed rent. On January 13th, Budwey terminated the lease by serving a 3-day notice to quit, and he filed the eviction action a week later.

However, Budwey claims that he crafts his leases to enable him to take self-help measures to secure the property and payment of rent if the tenant is 10 days in arrears. Under that provision, Budwey gives himself the right to enter and secure payment without the lease needing first to be terminated, and without any notice.

That’s exactly what Budwey did on January 11th – 11 days after the January rent was unpaid – he shut off the gas, blocked the doors, politely asked patrons to leave and offered to pay them cash, and wanted to prevent Valenti and Brocuglio the ability to destroy or loot the premises. The police were called, and Budwey relented. On cross-examination by Mr. Carney, Mr. Budwey acknowledged that he had recently changed the locks and the alarm codes. Mr. Carney’s questioning and demeanor were often argumentative (not that he was being rude, but that he was improperly making an argument during questioning), and at one point Carney and Rizzo got into a shouting match that was ended when Judge Lewis did a bit of yelling himself.

Carney made the point to the judge that he intended to remove the case to Supreme Court to pursue a claim against Budwey for self-help, seeking treble damages. Since that hadn’t been accomplished or applied for, Judge Lewis continued with the eviction proceeding.

The eviction is a simple action for Budwey to re-take possession of the unit, terminating the lease. There aren’t many defenses available to a commercial tenant in this situation – either the rent is paid, or it’s not. Valenti and Brocuglio’s claims about Budwey’s alleged illegal self-help are not defenses to the eviction, but a separate action for money damages. It is entirely possible that Budwey wins possession, but that he loses a subsequent trial for money damages in another venue. In speaking with Mr. Budwey, he indicates that he’d gladly pay to be forever rid of Valenti and Brocuglio, and he isn’t concerned about their threats of ongoing litigation.

At one point, I observed Mr. Budwey getting rather animated, requiring his attorney to shush him. I observed Mr. Budwey look directly at the seated Mr. Valenti, and ask him to “come on, speak up!” By contrast, Ms. Brocuglio was standing next to Mr. Carney the entire time, at one point looking back at Ms. Janiszewski and shaking her head at her. When Carney asked Budwey if the Valentis had abandoned the premises, Terry Valenti audibly said, “no”, and Ms. Brocuglio turned around and shushed him.

As Mr. Carney’s cross-examination was briefly halted, the judge sustained Mr. Rizzo’s objection over the line of questioning having to do with the lock-out. Rizzo argued that self-help is irrelevant for purposes of the eviction action, and based on the lease language, the judge agreed. However, the judge had to adjourn the proceeding because of a personal matter, and it will again be taken up at 11am on Tuesday.

As I waited to see if anyone would talk to me (unlikely as they’re all represented by counsel), Ms. Brocuglio approached me. She said, “hi, Alan”, adding, “I’m glad that now you’ve heard more of the story.” She told me that much of what people have left in comments here at Artvoice Daily are lies, and that this is all “from a divorce”. She refused to be interviewed on camera, and was whisked away to talk with her lawyer and supporters.

Before the proceeding, Budwey provided me with this document, which he says shows that even if Valenti’s was allowed to re-open, he’d still owe various creditors thousands.

Budwey told me that, when he went away to Jamaica, he offered to give Terry Valenti a second chance – a blank slate – all he had to do was keep Lori Brocuglio off the premises. Terry told Budwey that he would, but when Budwey left, Brocuglio was present at the restaurant every day. Before going COD with Tarantino and SYSCO, Valenti’s stocked up on over $10,000 of food, and supplemented that with Curtze, the last purveyor who would work with them. When the electric was shut off last week, all that food is now rotting, and the foam flame retardant system was deliberately activated by someone. Mr. Budwey clearly likes Terry Valenti and was willing to work with him, but he reserves a special hatred and disgust for Ms. Brocuglio; whenever he mentioned her name he used exquisitely colorful expletives.

If you pass by Valenti’s Restaurant now – a place that Janice Okun awarded 2 1/2 stars just 5 short week ago – a place supposedly run by an Iron Chef winner and CIA graduate, it now looks like this:

And had they not lied to Brian Kahle, Channel 7, and Janice Okun, no one would be paying them any attention.

 



Email me here.

Valenti’s: Might Want to Frame Those Gift Cards

An empty restaurant (click to enlarge)

It’s been about six weeks since the Buffalo News’ sole restaurant critic gave this Italian upstart a 2.5 star review, extolling the virtues of their red sauce and their Iron Chef and parsnips-based provenance.

On January 20, Budwey Supermarkets, Inc. filed a Notice of Petition to evict “Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Italian Restaurant under index number LT-0055-12 in North Tonawanda City Court. The matter is scheduled for a hearing on Monday January 30th at 2pm in that venue. Budwey alleges that Valenti’s owes him $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in attorneys’ fees.  As of right now, no counterclaim has been filed against Budwey.

I have a call in to Budwey’s attorney.

A source close to the matter says that, as the restaurant was readying for lunch service on Wednesday, the electricity was shut off. Terry Valenti had been attempting to open an electrical account in his name, but Budwey put a hold on the service, which rendered that impossible. With power off, food that was slated to be served yesterday is still sitting out, and the food that is in the coolers and freezers may spoil, costing upwards of $15,000 to replace. The problem is that Valenti’s cannot get a purveyor to service the restaurant due to unpaid bills, and a dubious check may have been cut to Curtze’s. (UPDATE: Curtze’s confirms that, although Valenti’s did not have an account with it, they did buy stuff from them from time to time, and they also confirmed that Valenti’s last check bounced – that there was no money in the account and they can’t locate the person who passed it.)

When the electricity was shut off, a source says that Valenti and Brocuglio pulled the Ansul flame retardant system, possibly damaging equipment and necessitating a very costly recharge of the foam system.

 

It’s unknown whether Valenti and Brocuglio intend ever to return to the restaurant at this point, but signs point to “no”. It’s also been reported to me that many valuables and important files and financial documents have been removed from the premises.

At 11am on Thursday, the lights were off, Valenti’s was empty and closed.  In the meantime, someone had created a “Budway Valenti“[sic] Facebook account to mock Valenti’s landlord and estranged partner in the business and former server, Melissa Janiszewski. Screen caps below.

 

 

Valenti's: Might Want to Frame Those Gift Cards

An empty restaurant (click to enlarge)

It’s been about six weeks since the Buffalo News’ sole restaurant critic gave this Italian upstart a 2.5 star review, extolling the virtues of their red sauce and their Iron Chef and parsnips-based provenance.

On January 20, Budwey Supermarkets, Inc. filed a Notice of Petition to evict “Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Italian Restaurant under index number LT-0055-12 in North Tonawanda City Court. The matter is scheduled for a hearing on Monday January 30th at 2pm in that venue. Budwey alleges that Valenti’s owes him $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in attorneys’ fees.  As of right now, no counterclaim has been filed against Budwey.

I have a call in to Budwey’s attorney.

A source close to the matter says that, as the restaurant was readying for lunch service on Wednesday, the electricity was shut off. Terry Valenti had been attempting to open an electrical account in his name, but Budwey put a hold on the service, which rendered that impossible. With power off, food that was slated to be served yesterday is still sitting out, and the food that is in the coolers and freezers may spoil, costing upwards of $15,000 to replace. The problem is that Valenti’s cannot get a purveyor to service the restaurant due to unpaid bills, and a dubious check may have been cut to Curtze’s. (UPDATE: Curtze’s confirms that, although Valenti’s did not have an account with it, they did buy stuff from them from time to time, and they also confirmed that Valenti’s last check bounced – that there was no money in the account and they can’t locate the person who passed it.)

When the electricity was shut off, a source says that Valenti and Brocuglio pulled the Ansul flame retardant system, possibly damaging equipment and necessitating a very costly recharge of the foam system.

 

It’s unknown whether Valenti and Brocuglio intend ever to return to the restaurant at this point, but signs point to “no”. It’s also been reported to me that many valuables and important files and financial documents have been removed from the premises.

At 11am on Thursday, the lights were off, Valenti’s was empty and closed.  In the meantime, someone had created a “Budway Valenti“[sic] Facebook account to mock Valenti’s landlord and estranged partner in the business and former server, Melissa Janiszewski. Screen caps below.

 

 

Brian Kahle Responds to Terry Valenti

On today’s Shredd and Ragan show, Terry Valenti tried to explain away his boasts of having defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, and accused the “marketing company” he hired for Googling him and using false information he had given to people in the past for manufacturing the claim.

So I contacted Brian Kahle, the well-respected local PR pro whom Valenti retained prior to opening the restaurant. It was Kahle’s press release that made its way to Janice Okun, and into her original review. It was Kahle and Lori Brocuglio who acted as Okun’s two sources for the Iron Chef claims, and when Okun called Kahle to verify the Iron Chef claim after their falsity was uncovered, he was perfectly correct in telling her that it’s what Terry and Lori told him.

But as far as journalism in WNY is concerned, take a look at Kahle’s release, and see how closely Okun’s words follow its template:

Co-owner (with his wife, Lori) and Chef Terry Valenti is a Western New York boy recently returned home from Texas and Florida — he cooked at Mama Leone’s in Manhattan and in resorts in Daytona. In 2003 he took on uber-chef Bobby Flay on the popular “Iron Chef” program. Knocked the socks off him, too.

It was the parsnips that did it,” says Lori. For the show, Terry produced Chilean Sea Bass stuffed with that vegetable (and artichoke hearts for good measure). He even dreamed up a Mango Parsnip Ice Cream that went over very well.

Everything that’s bolded in the two quoted paragraphs is a lie. So, how did it make its way into the paper?

Kahle explained that he doesn’t issue a press release and media kit until after (a) the clients help to write it; and (b) the clients approve it. In this case, every claim Kahle wrote on Valenti’s behalf was told to him by either Terry or Lori.

Although Valenti accuses Kahle of having Googled him, and including materials he found from prior lies he told Florida employers, Kahle vehemently denies doing any such thing. Indeed, Kahle is incensed at the suggestion that it was he, and not Terry or Lori, who fabricated or blew Valenti’s owns claims out of proportion. He was gratified that Valenti didn’t use Kahle’s name during his radio interview.

In other Valenti news, I learned that the Department of Labor did show up at the restaurant yesterday, but there was no fine leveled or violation drawn up.

What follows below is a PDF of the original press release that Kahle sent to media outlets throughout western New York on Valenti’s behalf.

Valenti’s Restaurant Media Kit Releasehttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/78786926/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-2kbrv5pkisrgrnoe2y3i//

Thus Spake Terry Valenti

Terry Valenti called in to Shredd and Ragan on WEDG 103.3-FM, and the audio of that call was played on air Thursday morning. Here is the summary of what he said:

  • He denies owing anyone any money.
  • When asked whether a check was bounced off Frank Budwey, he replied, “yes and no”, and accuses Budwey of taking an unsigned check off the counter despite them having paid him cash.
  • Valenti claims that they moved in Sept. 26th, and that the deal was for free rent for October, November, and December. In early January, Budwey demanded rent for December. They had a dispute, and Budwey asked Valenti to “just give me something.” They paid him some cash and claim to have the receipt.
  • Lori was arrested and bailed out soon thereafter, and she has an attorney assisting her.
  • Valenti never talked to Janice Okun about anything – Lori did, and his PR people did.
  • He claims that the Iron Chef thing is all a big misunderstanding. He did a “mock Iron Chef” in Florida, and backdated it to 2003 for some reason that I didn’t comprehend.  The audio of him blatantly claiming to Channel 7 to have appeared on Iron Chef America was played for him, and he said that he “shouldn’t have said it like that.”
  • He admits that he never attended the CIA, and that he lied in 2007 on an application to get a job.
  • He says he’s trying to come clean because he’s put his business and his employees in a “predicament”.
  • Valenti claims he wanted to just open up a little restaurant, and he hired a marketing company that took the lies that he told a Florida reporter and used that information to puff the North Tonawanda venture.
  • Did he work at Mamma Leone’s? He says he worked at _a_ Mamma Leone’s in New York City. He denies working for _the_ Mamma Leone’s. There is no evidence of another Mamma Leone’s existing in New York City – indeed, for an Italian Restaurant to do so would be a blatant violation of every intellectual property law and theory I can think of.  He said there were “twenty” Mamma Leones in New York City. That is as blatant a lie as saying you’re a Hell’s Angel, or an Iron Chef winner, or a CIA graduate.
  • Mr. Valenti claims to understand the blowback against him, and finally denies ever claiming that he was a member of the Hell’s Angels. This audio right here puts the lie to that (audio NSFW).


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Email me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com

Valenti’s: How the Story Has Changed (UPDATE & BUMP)

 

UPDATE & BUMP: Terry Valenti called the Shredd & Ragan show on 103.3-FM the Edge, and the recording of that conversation will be played on air around 7:45am on Thursday the 19th. I’ll be on the phone with them right afterwards.

It’s become the Valenti’s Restaurant Massacree. Arlo Guthrie could do a 30 minute monologue about it in talking blues style, if there was an underlying anti-war theme to be had.

If you missed it, I spoke with Shredd and Ragan from WEDG 103.3-FM on Tuesday morning to talk about Janice Okun, restaurant reviews, the Buffalo News, Valenti’s, and how all of it ties in together. The audio of the full interview is here.

For those of you who are checking this out to find out more, here is the compendium of Valenti’s posts so far:

1. “Two and a Half WTFs” is the original post from December 19th, now boasting over 650 comments, which have caused a very sordid and criminal tale to unfold about the purported owner(s) of Valenti’s, including a “secret” third partner, allegations of restraining orders, fraud, check kiting, violations of law and statute, battery, and a place that is apparently poorly run by some allegedly shady characters.  It was here that we first learned that Valenti never appeared on Iron Chef, never worked at Mamma Leone’s, and never attended, much less graduated from, the Culinary Institute of America – a claim that I uncovered from a Florida publication.

2. “Valenti’s Coda“, also from December 19th and headlined far too soon, pokes fun at the Buffalo News’ hasty and clumsy correction of Janice Okun’s original review of Valenti’s, which contained the false statements about Iron Chef battle parsnips. Andrew Galarneau, the Buffalo News’ food editor, assured me on Facebook that my Artvoice posts and comments at the Buffalo News’ own site played absolutely no part in the non-transparent corrections process, and that Jeff Levine from the CIA contacted him about Mr. Valenti’s claim to be a graduate of that institution, although that never appeared in Ms. Okun’s review.

3. “Valenti’s: Still Going” is a January 9th piece referencing MetroWNY’s work speaking to the producers of Iron Chef to verify that Valenti never appeared on that program.

4. “How Not to Run a Business” links to a Tonawanda News article that first uncovered Mr. Valenti’s landlord/tenant dispute with Frank Budwey, and references a Chowhound thread about the matter.

All of the foregoing articles served as a sort of informal assignment editor for this Buffalo News piece that appeared on Saturday.

So far today, I’ve learned more about the third partner, I’ve learned that there is no hearing scheduled yet on any eviction proceeding, that Mr. Budwey is out of the country at the moment, and I found out some other details I’m not at liberty to discuss at this time.

But suffice it to say that this has swiftly turned from a criticism of a poorly researched restaurant review, into civil eviction litigation, and now into bona fide criminal reporting.  We’ve turned a corner into hoping that these two people can no longer victimize another unsuspecting, naively trusting ambitious person.

Valenti's: How the Story Has Changed (UPDATE & BUMP)

 

UPDATE & BUMP: Terry Valenti called the Shredd & Ragan show on 103.3-FM the Edge, and the recording of that conversation will be played on air around 7:45am on Thursday the 19th. I’ll be on the phone with them right afterwards.

It’s become the Valenti’s Restaurant Massacree. Arlo Guthrie could do a 30 minute monologue about it in talking blues style, if there was an underlying anti-war theme to be had.

If you missed it, I spoke with Shredd and Ragan from WEDG 103.3-FM on Tuesday morning to talk about Janice Okun, restaurant reviews, the Buffalo News, Valenti’s, and how all of it ties in together. The audio of the full interview is here.

For those of you who are checking this out to find out more, here is the compendium of Valenti’s posts so far:

1. “Two and a Half WTFs” is the original post from December 19th, now boasting over 650 comments, which have caused a very sordid and criminal tale to unfold about the purported owner(s) of Valenti’s, including a “secret” third partner, allegations of restraining orders, fraud, check kiting, violations of law and statute, battery, and a place that is apparently poorly run by some allegedly shady characters.  It was here that we first learned that Valenti never appeared on Iron Chef, never worked at Mamma Leone’s, and never attended, much less graduated from, the Culinary Institute of America – a claim that I uncovered from a Florida publication.

2. “Valenti’s Coda“, also from December 19th and headlined far too soon, pokes fun at the Buffalo News’ hasty and clumsy correction of Janice Okun’s original review of Valenti’s, which contained the false statements about Iron Chef battle parsnips. Andrew Galarneau, the Buffalo News’ food editor, assured me on Facebook that my Artvoice posts and comments at the Buffalo News’ own site played absolutely no part in the non-transparent corrections process, and that Jeff Levine from the CIA contacted him about Mr. Valenti’s claim to be a graduate of that institution, although that never appeared in Ms. Okun’s review.

3. “Valenti’s: Still Going” is a January 9th piece referencing MetroWNY’s work speaking to the producers of Iron Chef to verify that Valenti never appeared on that program.

4. “How Not to Run a Business” links to a Tonawanda News article that first uncovered Mr. Valenti’s landlord/tenant dispute with Frank Budwey, and references a Chowhound thread about the matter.

All of the foregoing articles served as a sort of informal assignment editor for this Buffalo News piece that appeared on Saturday.

So far today, I’ve learned more about the third partner, I’ve learned that there is no hearing scheduled yet on any eviction proceeding, that Mr. Budwey is out of the country at the moment, and I found out some other details I’m not at liberty to discuss at this time.

But suffice it to say that this has swiftly turned from a criticism of a poorly researched restaurant review, into civil eviction litigation, and now into bona fide criminal reporting.  We’ve turned a corner into hoping that these two people can no longer victimize another unsuspecting, naively trusting ambitious person.

Tea from Leaves!

Buffalo News diner Janice Okun reviews Ming Cafe today. The charming little Chinese restaurant is located on the same block as Shango, across from UB South, and is well-known for odd opening times and great food.

Ms. Okun’s review reveals:

1. Ming Cafe makes its jasmine tea from actual tea leaves. Somehow, this is surprising or unusual.

2. Ming Cafe doesn’t offer all that sweet-and-sour crap you’re used to seeing on Chinese menus, but mixes it up a bit. Also, the menu is not “tomelike”.

3. She ordered Crab Rangoon, except it had shrimp and ricotta instead of crab and cream cheese. Shrimp Yangon?  She also ordered tofu and spinach dumplings, “fried as crisp as could be”.

4. Given a chance to order a really interesting escargot dish, she instead ordered Singapore noodles (found on every Chinese menu), and was surprised that it had curry. Singapore noodles is universally recognized as a vermicelli dish with meat, shrimp, veggies, all loaded with curry. It’s curried noodles – you can’t be “surprised” by the curry. This is akin to her being surprised that a muffuletta comes with an olive salad. Sichuan chicken, also found on just about every Chinese menu, was served with “medium” heat, on a bed of spinach.

5. Ms. Okun says the food and service were “excellent” and “very good”.  This doesn’t explain why she gives Ming only 3.5 stars under her unexplained scheme. On what basis is the half-star given? Everything was good based on the safe choices she made, and her surprise over something quite predictable.

6. The image accompanying the review features the owners, and a plate of beef tofu.

Based on the foregoing, I give this review only one and one-half okuns.

I am not at liberty to explain how I arrive at that figure.

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