For decades, the rural, westward drive along Huntsville Brownsferry Road from Madison to Athens has showcased little more than green fields, extensive farmland, and a few stop signs.
But now, this two-lane road is home to one of North Alabama’s largest, most colorful, and detailed murals our area has ever seen, and this visual masterpiece is rapidly grabbing the attention of curious spectators from all over.
Valentina’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar owner Joe Carlucci is the mastermind behind this new mural which was painted on the side of his family-run, local restaurant.
The mural extends 22’ feet high by 80’ wide and encompasses the entire east-facing side of the restaurant. It features a slew of Alabama-connected individuals and symbols as well as people that have made an impact on Carlucci’s personal journey.
Carlucci’s artist, James Smith with 1440 Art, flew in from Los Angeles just for this project after a quick initial conversation in June.
“His work was on another level. I knew he had to be the one to create this,” shared Carlucci who says that originally the mural would depict images of pizza-famous locations like Italy and New York.
A casual conversation with a friend this summer shifted Carlucci’s plans though when he realized that he wanted to make more of a statement with his mural and give visitors something deeper to talk about.
“Everybody and everything on this wall has meaning,” shared Carlucci. “I thought about everything. I want people to sit down at a table and actually talk together. I want people to say ‘Do you know who this is and what that is?’ and for this to really be a staple of conversation.”
From left to right, Valentina’s mural features:
- Nick Saban, The University of Alabama’s current and winningest head football coach
- Alabama’s state flower, the Camellia
- the American flag and soldier silhouettes which Carlucci says honors our area’s heavy military presence
- Anthony Bourdain, the late chef and culinary icon who Carlucci says made a significant impact on his career
- a #12 University of Alabama football helmet in honor of Joe Namath, a legendary Alabama football player and New York Jets football player
- Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon and Montgomery native
- Carlucci’s daughter Valentina, whom the restaurant is named after
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- a World Pizza Champions logo of which Carlucci is a founding member of. World Pizza Champions is a team of pizza makers from all over the world.
- the rocket from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center
- Helen Keller, an Alabama native known for being a disability advocate and political activist
- Charles Barkley, a former Auburn University basketball star and 11-time All-NBA team player
- an Auburn football helmet
- Alabama’s state bird, the Yellowhammer
“The last thing I want you to look at is my daughter, who is half-Korean and a girl, making pizzas for all different people and backgrounds,” shared Carlucci. “It’s not about the color of our skin or your ethnicity or your favorite college team. It’s about love, peace, and pizza. Imagine all these great people sitting at a table with each other and having some great pizzas.”
He continued to share “So when you’re dining at Valentina’s, look to your neighbor, say hello, and maybe we can all be better to each other over some pizza.”
Carlucci also included a separate image of Barstool Sports owner David Portnoy, who raised over $60 million dollars for those in the pizza and restaurant industries who were (and still are) currently affected by the pandemic.
“I wanted to include him in some way to show appreciation for what he’s done for those of us in the business. I also really want him to come to Valentina’s to see the painting and validate the (pizza) slice!”
Visit Valentina’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar
Valentina’s patio was poured this spring and was created out of necessity due to how the restaurant has exploded in popularity. Carlucci invites those who have never visited his restaurant to give it a try and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. It’s open for dinner only beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and lunch and dinner beginning at noon on Friday and Saturday.
All Things Madison owner and editor note: My family is obsessed with Valentina’s. We love the flavorful, unique pizza offerings and rarely get the same pizza. The meatballs continue to be the best we’ve ever had, and we always order some as a family appetizer.
Our kids devour the cheese pizza and have even been invited to help cook it when the restaurant is quiet (Carlucci will do the same for your kids if it’s quiet and you ask!) The garlic knots – oh my! So good. The desserts are also a must-try. Valentina’s is small, laid back, and truly encompasses a family vibe. We enjoy going after a long day or week and just melting in, sipping wine, and enjoying amazing food. It’s a must-try in the area!
More about Valentina’s on All Things Madison