Matteo’s in Roslyn Heights, one of Nassau’s most-popular spots for casual, family-style Italian dining, has undergone a transformation.
“It was time for a change,” said Gennaro Sbarro, who bought Matteo’s in 2008. “This concept has been around for 25 years and we wanted it to evolve into something fresh.”
Accordingly, Matteo’s dining room is now a harmonious blend of marble, wood and stone, with elegant fabric accents and cool light fixtures. Even the stemware sparkles.
Sbarro also hired a new chef, Anthony Martarana, whose impressive resume includes stints at the former Nisen Sushi in Woodbury, Park Place in Floral Park and the Brass Rail in Locust Valley. Martarana was charged with scrutinizing the execution of Matteo’s signature dishes as well as updating the menu.
“We kept all our popular dishes,” Sbarro said, “but now you can get them either family style or a la carte.'' New dishes include warm burrata with grilled ciabatta, tuna tartare, wild mushroom risotto with shaved truffles, whole branzino, braised short ribs.
Sbarro said he plans to do a similar makeover at the Huntington Matteo’s later this year.
On a recent visit to Roslyn, we sampled both old and new dishes. We ordered the smaller, a la carte portions, but had them served family style.
We liked all our starters. Clams oreganata, $12, were terrific, as was a new salad of grilled baby octopus, firm cannellini beans and ripe tomatoes ($17). Stacked on top of avocado with a crispy wonton garnish, the tuna tartare ($17) looked every inch the New American appetizer, though the tuna was diced too small to fully appreciate.
For mains, we ordered three old Matteo's favorites. Chicken Ultimate ($22) is a likeable dish whose target audience is folks who can’t decide between two classic Italian-American dishes. Like Francese, the cutlets have been lightly fried and napped in a lemony sauce; like Parmesan they are topped with melted mozzarella. I guess "ultimate" refers to the hot-sweet cherry peppers embedded in the cheese. We also liked Nonna’s Ragu ($23), a Sunday gravy featuring hunks of short rib, meatballs, sausage and a big slab of ricotta to undercut its deep tomato richness. The rigatoni was a tad overdone.
How could we not order something called Shrimp Wendy ($21)? It turned out to be plump shrimp sauteed with charred green beans. Not exactly a felicitous pairing, but tasty enough. And if there’s such a thing as innovative suburban Italian American cuisine, this would be one of its exemplars.
Matteo’s is at 88 Mineola Ave., Roslyn Heights, 516-484-0555.