First Bite: Matteo

I consider 900 South in Salt Lake City as my go-to restaurant row if I don’t quite want the bustle of Downtown but still want a stellar dining experience. From Laziz Kitchen, Bar Nohm, Manoli’s, Tradition, Barrio, Freshies Lobster, Pig & a Jelly Jar, East Liberty Tap House, and Tsunami, there is always a local spot to satisfy and delight. And now, there’s a new kid on the block (street?) with a wine list to impress and a menu designed around the Modena region of Italy; Matteo is a family concern and opened several weeks ago. 

I usually don’t review spots that are freshly opened. I allow newcomers to ease into the kitchen and iron out any service wrinkles. But Matteo showed up solid right out of the gate, with an experienced team in the kitchen (and the dining room). Owner Matteo Sogne shows up as the expert Sommelier as well. With his mother and father supporting the kitchen occasionally as the guardians of the tradition, and Executive Chef, Damiano Carlotto executes a menu that is “an ode to the rustic, comforting, and soul-warming cuisine of Italy.”

The dining room is beautifully designed and open, with the only drawback being that it was a little loud, even when half full. And everything from the ceramic plates, the stemware, and the art on the walls was clearly artfully chosen. The wine glasses are so delicate that you may not want to breathe out of fear of shattering a glass. 

Service is thoughtful and attentive without being overbearing. With bonus points for a dash of education with the food and wine. Plan on a traditional Italian dining service; that is to say, you should plan on a couple of hours from start to finish, moving from antipasto, ensalada, primi, segundi, and dolce. Call Matteo over for wine recommendations based on your food choices, and you won’t be disappointed. When we ordered our bottle, he brought over two sizes of glasses. He had us sample the same bottle of wine from different stemware to illustrate the difference in the wine by how it is altered in the glass. It was like drinking two distinct bottles of wine.  

Meatballs. Photo by Lydia Martinez

Modena is known for a trifecta of heritage food: parmigiano reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto. If you’re lucky, you might even get a little sampling of the family vintage of balsamico with fresh parm. This trio is sprinkled liberally throughout the menu as an ode to the area. 

As for food, the Polpette or meatballs are a hearty starter. They are made with Italian sausage, which makes them a little more rustic and spicy. They come with plenty of cheese and are swimming in red Pomodoro sauce. The Contadina salad was a nice break between the rich starter and the rich primi courses. With pears, almonds, and gorgonzola, it was refreshing and wintery. Oh, and the plate itself was art. A Rossa salad with seasonal beets, goat cheese, and arugula also looked amazing, judging by the plates passing by. My guess is that the salads will rotate seasonally.

Lasagne. Photo by Lydia Martinez

For the primi, the lasagna al ragu is made with Nonna’s bolognese AND bechamel. Which makes for a very saucy dish. It came in a bowl and needed bread for sopping up. As is appropriate with sauce. Next time, I’ll order the Puttanata because I LOVE bucatini, which comes with nduja. This spreadable cured salami is popping up all over menus locally and is addictive. Add in olives and pecorino; it sounds like a recipe for a mouthful of magic. 

My advice at this point is to not get wimpy. You may feel full. You may want to quit. But go for the secondi. The meat dishes skew towards beef – a ribeye, a filet, and braised beef are all on the menu. They all looked amazing. But the veal was calling to me. Veal is always a risky move on a menu. Overcooked for 30 seconds, and veal turns into leather. The Vitello dish at Matteo was perfection. Lightly dusted, tender, and served with a bright white wine cream sauce with mushrooms, it was a beautiful way to round out a carb-heavy meal. Bonus points for well-cooked veg. 

The only real opportunity on the menu was the dessert. The pistachio semifreddo was creamy and semi-frozen. But was decidedly lacking in pistachio flavor. Next time, I’ll go for the tiramisu. 

Panna Cotta. Photo by Lydia Martinez

When you visit, please plan on multiple hours and work through all the courses. This is an Italian-style service. And it will be thoughtful and paced out. So settle in with someone you love to talk to and enjoy the entire experience. In the words of Matteo’s “Ti senti a casa,” you’ll feel like you are at home. But with much better wine glasses. 

If you go: Matteo

Open 4:30p–9:30p daily

439 E 900 S · Salt Lake City

matteoslc.com

Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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