Matteo’s Pizza & Bistro
5132 Arden Way
Words & Photos by Josselin Bassaldu
Oh, October. You are like that boring friend that you forget is so interesting until they let loose and entertain the hell out of you.
How about them apples, October? You make them so sweet and crispy, just in time to be baked with spices to warm away the on-setting winter chills.
You are the sacred month, October, that wraps up the worldwide celebration of foamy, yeasty brews. It does seem to be brews that bring brothers, best friends and even sometimes the begotten together. (I hope you all have enjoyed Oktoberfest.)
Oh October, you’ve outdone yourself this year with some well-needed Sacramento-area restaurant openings. The first of which is yet another contemporary pizza place—not parlor, but a 21st century chic version. Can one city really have too many good pizza places, Sacramentans?
Supper Club owners Matt and Yvette Woolston must have had a similar power-of-good-pizza epiphany and opened Matteo’s Pizza & Bistro Oct. 9 at the Five Points Shopping Center on Arden Way and Fair Oaks Boulevard.
Cashing in on the local connection, I was able to dine at Matteo’s at a discount during one of the three staff training nights Oct. 6-8. By reservation only, guests got a sneak peak into the Matteo’s manifesto. Fellow foodie and writer Pippa (as we’ll call her) was present to challenge my culinary opinions over a bottle of fresh, food friendly and sometimes smoky Huber Hugo Gruner twist-off capped Austrian Veltliner wine.
The menu isn’t huge, but certainly varied. Appetizers, pizzas and pastas are featured, as well as hot and cold sandwiches, soups and salads.
Polenta has become a staple in many restaurants. I’ve seen it in fried balls, grilled with cheese and served creamy alongside portions of meat. But I’ve yet to have polenta fries, so I did at Matteo’s. These thick, crispy and fluffy fries ($6.95) were served with a smoky, mild basil marinara. Polenta can have a way of tasting too much like chicken broth, but the polenta fries had a subtle cornmeal flavor that was highlighted by shavings of very salty asiago cheese. Yum.
Opting for a dish with new culinary components, the Spaniard pizza was interesting but familiar.
Its slightly sweet, smoky and salty flavors were like a super palate surprise. Cured Serrano ham and salty olives (which were supposed to be green, but were Kalamata) complemented the smooth, slightly sweet, sliced fingerling potatoes and Italian basil. Romesco sauce—a Catalonian mix of almonds and hazelnuts, olive oil, garlic and small, dried red pepper—added a hint of mystery to this pizza. The crust, light and of a medium-thin thickness, was prepared in a “top of the line” oven, as our server informed us and gave the pizza a cooked-on-a-campfire kind of woody, charred taste.
Unlike many pizza places, Matteo’s also offers formal bistro-style entrees and vegetarian dishes.
The Tree Hugger BLT left us off-put by its strange name, but intrigued thanks to the use of Portobello mushroom bacon. Served on a whole-wheat walnut sourdough (bread comes from Grateful Bread) with arugala, tomato and white truffle aioli ($8.95), this sandwich could make it easy for anyone to be a vegetarian, according to Pippa. Reminded that quirky author Sloane Crosley boldly and probably accurately stated in her book I Was Told There’d Be Cake, that the one thing that vegetarians miss is bacon.
“Any vegetarian that misses bacon has found their heaven in this sandwich,” Pippa exclaimed.
Pippa had a point. But I had concerns.
An overall good sandwich with nice crispy, yet potato-y skinny fries, I was somehow expecting the Portobello mushroom bacon (cured at the Supper Club) to be crispy and the bread to be at least toasted. The bacon was cold and soggy, sliced up into little pieces and certainly cured in liquid smoke. A comprehensive bite of the sandwich was delightfully peppery, earthy and balanced, but when I nabbed up a little piece of Portobello bacon that escaped the BLT, it tasted like eating cigarette smoke. This sandwich was good and a bright idea, it just needed a bit of tweaking.
Matteo’s has created a dining experience to meld together those of a formal dining era, the organically inclined and intimate lounge-like hip food scene. Matteo’s has the mother earth mold and offers a dining experience for any type of diner to enjoy.
There are some restaurants that I say I might return to, but I’d return to Matteo’s Pizza & Bistro and actually spend my own money. Plan for this place when anticipating a possibly stressful meeting—like a date or reconnecting with old friends—or for a good meal. The frequency of calm is invigorating, the attitude is refreshing and the food makes you happy.