1968 seems like such a long time ago. I was just eight, and we were still a year away from the miracle Mets and Neil Armstrong’s magical footsteps. In that year, Nick Valenti was hired by Restaurant Associates as a management trainee, over 38 years ago. 1968 also contained some of the most turbulent events in our nation’s history. Vietnam War deaths reached a peak of 500 a week, and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The fabric of our country seemed to be unraveling out of control, and the young people of this time period distanced themselves from the “establishment”, tuning out by using drugs, listening to some of the most influential music ever written, and protesting against an insulated and clueless government. While the short-lived cultural tidal wave of the hippie movement soon faded away, the music of that era never did, and never will.
Yet the most enduring message from this time period seemed to be a longing for individuality. So when Nick Valenti was looking for his first restaurant job, he wanted what most young people did at the time - freedom of expression. It didn’t take long for Valenti to take his hospitality background and combine it with 1968’s spirit of individuality and creativity, and create his own niche in the restaurant industry.