Carmichael, CA 95608
Matteo’s is molto bene. Like OneSpeed in East Sacramento, the Carmichael eatery pitches itself as primarily a pizza place. Like OneSpeed, it’s a lot more. And a primary reason is the gifted owner and chef. In Matteo’s case, that is Matt Woolston, head honcho along with his wife, Yvette, at the Supper Club on Del Paso Boulevard. Before that, Woolston had a 12-year stint as executive chef for David Berkley.
The spacious establishment, with its colorful artwork and high ceiling dotted with cylinder-shaped cloth lights, is two different places, depending on the meal. At lunch, the pace is relaxed, almost languid, with empty tables and booths and nary a person at the long crescent bar at the restaurant’s rear.
Dinner is far more frenetic. Capacity crowds, knots of folks at the bar and a healthy percentage of wannabe patrons waiting for seats by the two wine casks with a door on top that serves as the hostess station.
Dinner is with daughter Katie and her oldest and bestest friend, Adrianna. They’ve been pals since preschool and now are in the throes of applying to college. As my former colleague at the San Francisco Chronicle said: “Just when they start getting interesting, they leave home.”
There is plenty of pizza on the menu. The Matteo is meaty: Italian sausage, pepperoni, chorizo, bacon and four cheeses. The Stu, named for chef Stu Edgecombe presumptively, is more eclectic: mushrooms, prosciutto, caramelized onions, arugula, fontina and truffle oil.
More fun is the option of creating your own masterpiece from 13 regular toppings at 90 cents a throw, plus premium toppings, plus a panoply of cheeses. Katie goes premium all the way—serrano ham, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts. But she could have also combined wild mushrooms, hummus and prosciutto with romesco sauce. Not that she ever would, of course. Her finished product is tasty albeit a tad garlicky.
Adrianna opts for the bucatini Bolognese, a boisterous and beefy pasta enhanced with crimini mushrooms and Asiago. So big is the dome of Bolognese that scads remain after the bucatini is an ancient memory.
The garlic bread is less garlicky than the pizza, oddly. Samantha, the energetic and brightly tattooed waitress, is asked her salad preference: the baby spinach salad or the arugula, whose merits include oranges and beets. Spinach, she says instantly. In a rare moment of restraint, the beet compulsion is mastered.
It’s easy to understand Samantha’s speedy spinach selection. The salad’s other players include pears, blue cheese, pecans, not enough red onions—there’s never enough—and honey-cider vinaigrette. Samantha also shoots and scores on recommending the pork porterhouse. Nicely grilled but still moist, brightened by apple-ginger chutney and a medley of greens, Southern, that is.
At lunch, Jennifer, the waitress and a vegetarian, raves about the Tree Hugger BLT with its housemade “bacon” of portobello mushroom on whole-wheat walnut sourdough. Other vegetarian options include the Greek pizza with spinach, Kalamata olives, mozzarella, feta, hummus, mixed greens, spinach and roasted sweet peppers. Another time, perhaps.
In the choice of black-bean purée or clam chowder, Jennifer says without equivocation the bean. It is streaked with cream squiggles. There’s a rectangle of zippy tomatillo at its center. More tomatillo is sought, a generous amount delivered. The entirety is immediately poured into the soup, sharply spicing it to perfection. A special this day is barbecue chicken pizza, which, delightfully, is not overpowered by barbecue sauce. The other ingredients can actually be tasted. Among them: pineapple, basil and slices of red pepper.
Twelve beers on tap and a varied and informed selection of wines—go figure, 12 years with David Berkley—round out Matteo’s. Seems doubtful Carmichael can keep this joint a secret.