Welcome to Wellen | The Banyan House

The Banyan House team standing in front of the all-new location in Downtown Wellen of Wellen Park Florida.

Food and beverage options throughout Downtown Wellen continue to flourish.

 In honor of The Banyan House’s official opening, we spoke with David Valentino, one of the owners of this all-new waterfront restaurant, to give you a peek into the restaurant’s design approach, intentional menu, and family-owned aspect. 

[Wellen Park]: What was the inspiration or design approach behind The Banyan House? What makes it unique?

[David]: In many ways, The Banyan House is a marked departure from our previous projects. In most of our other restaurants, the design goal was to allow the guest to almost forget where they are. By strictly controlling lines of sight, lighting, etc., we distracted and diminished the outside world and created an escape for the guest. By the time the appetizers reach the table, they might imagine being in any city in the world. The Banyan House is something else entirely.  

Thanks to the architectural and natural beauty of Downtown Wellen, plus our position on the [Grand Lake], we have leaned into the surrounding environment. Not only is the restaurant building itself dominated by large windows, but we have (quite literally) invited nature inside. Besides the obvious addition of our beautiful Banyan trees, we have also strived to emphasize natural colors, materials, and tree and leaf motifs throughout the interior design.

Hand-crafted Banyan trees before they were installed in their new home in The Banyan House.

[Wellen Park]: Did you work with an interior designer on this space?

[David]: Yes. Again, this was a first for our group. We were aided by the building’s design team in selecting many of the basic design elements, such as wall coverings. 

However, I am quite proud of the fact that many of the most dramatic pieces, such as the trees themselves and the stunning bar top were discovered by our restaurant team. 

A mouth-watering meal from The Banyan House’s opening day menu.

[Wellen Park]: What are you most excited for people to experience at this all-new restaurant in Downtown Wellen?

[David]: While the design of the physical space is quite comfortable, the cuisine is elevated and the menu very chef-driven… In this particular context, I am trying to express how thoughtfully the menu has been curated. How well each dish has been balanced.  Be its ingredient sourcing,  presentation, texture, warmth, brightness… I could go on. Almost nothing has been left to chance. 

People are in for a treat, to say the least, and with no false modesty, I predict The Banyan House will quickly become a destination restaurant.

A mouth-watering meal from The Banyan House’s opening day menu.

[Wellen Park]: Tell us a little bit about the family-owned business aspect — who started the business and do they operate as well?

[David]: You are going to have to accept the reader’s digest version here.  My brother Dennis and I have been partners in the restaurant business for over 20 years. We quite literally grew up in a hotel/restaurant in Scotland owned by our parents — although we are New Jersey Italians by birth. We both left the industry for a time. 

Dennis was a lieutenant with the local fire department in his youth, and I became a corporate lawyer in Atlanta. Ultimately, we took over our small family restaurant in Port Charlotte, called Donato’s, which just celebrated its 27th anniversary. 

Along our journey, about 12 years ago now, we met and hired another lifelong restaurant guy, named Mark Costanzo. Mark became our great friend and business partner and, together, our group has thrived and expanded. By year’s end, we will own nine popular local restaurants, plus our new catering company. It’s been a wonderful ride, as they say.

Gorgeous sunset views outside of The Banyan House in Downtown Wellen.

[Wellen Park]: Do you think that being a family-owned business is important to the restaurant’s story and how it will operate? 

[David]: Brick and mortars don’t make a community. Buildings are just structures. Even the loveliest of them can be empty shells. So, what does make a community? What distinguishes one small town or city from the hundreds and thousands just like it? One stretch of US 41 from the next?  Here’s a hint: it’s not Walgreens. 

It’s the people, of course. The churches and the charities. The little league teams and Girl Scouts, and certainly the small “mom and pop” businesses. And at the very forefront of that, is the local restaurants. They quite literally (and figuratively) give a community its flavor. Its vibe. 

It’s where we celebrate and seek solace. It’s where we find sustenance and kinship. It is often the first thing we think of when we think of where we come from… We want to be that place in the community. 


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