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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Give pizza a chance: Valentino’s reopens on The Square


Valentino’s, located on The Square, Monday, August 22, 2022, in San Marcos.

In 2018, Valentino’s, a beloved pizza joint on The Square officially closed its doors. As of June, however, the restaurant has reopened and the smell of classic pepperoni pizza brings in old and new customers alike.
After Thanksgiving in 2018 the owners of Valentino’s at the time quietly closed the restaurant and sold the building. It was on its way to being occupied by a T-Mobile or a Starbucks, leaving the legacy of the restaurant to be forgotten.
It sounded like the end for the pizzeria until Industry co-founders Cody Taylor and Harlan Scott were given the chance to help breathe new life into Valentino’s in July 2020.
“Cody and I have opened a lot of restaurants, from seafood to big wine lists,” Scott said. “But Valentino’s is a 40-year-old brand, so it’s been the most challenging thing we’ve ever done.”
Before Valentino’s, there was Pizza Plaza in 1972, where Bijan Afkhami, a junior from then Southwest Texas State University was a delivery driver. Afkhami would become the owner of Pizza Plaza in 1981 and rename the restaurant Valentino’s after his brother’s cat.
Since Afkhami, Valentino’s has had five different owners. Dan Clemts owned the restaurant from 1993 until 2005 when he sold the business, leaving Valentino’s as a chapter of his life completed.
“I was very hands-on when I ran Valentino’s, putting in 100-hour work weeks and scraping pennies to build the business back up,” Clemts said. “I took the time to get to know every employee, making them that much better of an employee.”
Clemts said there’s a rich history that runs through the restaurant walls. He said that being the owner wasn’t easy, but he is proud of the family atmosphere he created for his employees.
John Schmidt, a former Valentino’s employee and a Texas State alumnus, worked under Clemts in 1995 as a delivery driver. He worked at Valentino’s three times in a span of 15 years, going from driver to prep and kitchen and eventually assistant manager of the pizzeria.
Although the workers were underpaid, Schmidt said they all had fun and still keep in touch with one another through a Facebook group called Valentino Vets.
“We worked hard and we partied hard,” Schmidt said. “We now get together every year to play golf, card games and even go on vacations together.”
After selling the business, Clemts would later return to the pizzeria in 2017. At that time, he saw how Valentino’s was slowly fading out of the San Marcos scene.
“When you’re in the restaurant business, you can go in and see how people interact, how the food is cooked, just get a feel for it,” Clemts said. “And I didn’t get a good feeling when I last visited.”
A hub for dates, lunch breaks and birthday parties, Valentino’s has been a San Marcos icon since 1981. It was no surprise that once Valentino’s reopened for new and old customers, some people would feel a sense of entitlement knowing that this was their spot to eat.
Scott and Taylor strived to please past customers who still held onto Valentino’s past while also understanding that times have changed for restaurants and for pizza. At first, they saw the project as just a fresh coat of paint and a quick reopening to the public.
However, that all changed when they walked into the closed pizzeria without any basic infrastructure to reopen to the public.
“We find out that the kitchen floor is made of wood, the restrooms unsafe and the ceiling is collapsing,” Scott said.
Once they realized that a complete rebuilding of the pizzeria would have to take place, Scott and Taylor knew that a pizza counter, a soda machine and cheap $1 beer sales were not going to cut it.
Scott and Taylor took their time to create the perfect place to sell a perfect slice of pizza. They repurposed old wood, adding two full bars inside the restaurant and spent a year buying used restaurant equipment at auctions, taste-testing various pizzas and wings and trying to learn as much as they could about pizza.
When all was said and done, Valentino’s officially reopened in the summer of 2022 where they first started off with take-out and dine-in only. The demand for pizza was so great that the restaurant was even sold out of pizza at times.
The process of making the pizza dough takes three days, which is why they ran out of pizza very quickly. Nonetheless, Scott said he is proud and humbled by the fact that people are calling their pizza the best they’ve ever tasted and sharing old memories of Valentino’s with him.
“We opened and it’s been crazy, as well as incredibly humbling,” Scott said. “People have been coming in and sharing photos from the 80s, in tears, thanking us for what we’ve done.”
At the end of August, Valentino’s will host a celebration for its past and current owners, managers and employees. Clemts will be in attendance and said he’s excited to see what Taylor and Scott created, knowing that the two restaurant connoisseurs saw value and history in a place that he had worked so hard on.
When they began to tear down what was left of Valentino’s back in 2020, Scott and Taylor came across old relics and took a deep dive into the restaurant’s rich history. From the start, Scott knew that he would not be able to open the old Valentino’s.
He hopes that with the reopening, customers can once again enjoy the beloved slice of San Marcos that is Valentino’s.
“Along the way of reopening, I went through four decades of history,” Scott said. “We were dealing with something much more bigger than pizza: people’s emotions and memories.”
To learn more about Valentino’s story and to see the menu, visit valentinosbar.com.

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  • Valentino’s, located on The Square, offers an outside seating and bar area, Monday, August 22, 2022, in San Marcos.

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