matteo’s osteria wailea welcomes great food & old italian style to the south side

Matteos_165In Italian, “osteria” literally means an eating establishment where the owners personally host their guests for a meal. “In old Italy, people would tie up their horses and come inside an osteria for a comforting, rustic repast with friends and family,” says Gianna Mistura, co-owner with her husband, Chef Matteo, of Matteo’s Osteria in the Wailea Town Center. With this concept in mind, the Misturas opened Matteo’s Osteria last December, which they’ve dubbed “Maui’s First Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar.”

Stepping inside Matteo’s Osteria evokes the feeling you’ve been transported to the Italian Riviera: golden-hued walls and rich wood flooring are reminiscent of the aura of the Mediterranean. This is no coincidence. Matteo was born and raised there in a culinary family where his mother was a self-taught chef, and his father a sommelier. Matteo says he began learning to cook in his mother’s kitchen when he was only five years old. He enrolled in culinary school at the age of 14, and graduated at 18.

After the Misturas landed on Maui in 2001, Matteo spent three years as Chef de Cuisine at Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante at the Four Seasons, followed by a two-year stint as a private chef and caterer. In 2006, the Misturas opened the beloved Matteo’s Pizzeria in the space now occupied by Manoli’s Pizza Company. Six years later, the Misturas closed Matteo’s Pizzeria and went back to Matteo’s native Italy, which they used as home base while they traveled around the world sampling different cuisines. After these globetrotters returned to Italy, they developed and tested recipes for their latest venture—Matteo’s Osteria.

Janet and I begin the evening with beverages: a glass of Roseali rose for Janet, and a refreshing cucumber cocktail for me. Janet declares the rose to be light and dry, with delicate floral notes. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It will pair nicely with food.” My cocktail is concocted with fresh cucumber, lemon, Hendrick’s gin, and St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflower. The combination of flavors is delightful—like luscious grown-up lemonade.

Server Michael tells us Matteo’s offers more than 100 varieties of wines; 60 of which are available by the glass. The wine display rack in the bar area holds 64 bottles, while the temperature-controlled wine vault holds 2,000 bottles, and was built by a childhood friend of Matteo’s with all recycled wood.

For our pre-dinner noshing pleasure, Michael brings fresh-from-the-oven focaccia bread in a tall wire basket shaped like a sundae dish, and pours olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto a plate for the imperative dipping. The focaccia is incredibly light, with a nice bite of salt, and the olive oil has an amazing full-bodied flavor.

For our antipasti (appetizer) course, Janet and I have selected the Gamberi (pancetta-wrapped prawns with creamy cognac sauce—$11) and Misto (roasted beets, butternut squash, marinated fig, goat cheese, citrus, mint, and shaved fennel—$13). Three plump, juicy prawns are wrapped in prosciutto that’s been perfectly crisped, served atop an addictive cognac sauce, and garnished with micro greens. It’s a perfect marriage of richness and savoriness. The beet salad is composed of shimmering chunks of burgundy-colored roasted beets and golden butternut squash, dressed with citrus and mint, and garnished with marinated figs, dollops of zesty goat cheese, and earthy fennel shavings. It’s a sophisticated mélange of sweet and savory flavors.

Osteria manager Mariana stops by to make sure we’re enjoying everything. She and the Misturas are long-time friends, and Mariana helped decorate Matteo’s. “This space used to have red carpeting and chartreuse draperies,” she says. “This space had stood vacant for seven years. We think it was meant for us.” Mariana designed the restaurant’s strikingly unusual draperies made with beige burlap fabric and trimmed with green velvet. “Mariana is our very own ‘Martha Stewart,’” Gianna tells us later.

For our insalate (salad) course, Janet and I have selected the Zucca (Kula greens, butternut squash, goat cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette—$10). There are so many goodies in this beautiful dish it’s difficult to decide where to begin, so we simply dig in. There’s nothing fresher than crisp Kula greens, and the contrasting textures in this salad provide a pleasurable symphony for the palate.

When our primi (pasta) course (Tagliatelle—$22) is delivered, it’s a sight to behold: green arugula pasta is smothered with meaty Kaua‘i shrimp, black olives, capers, and a bright red, bold puttanesca sauce. Served on a white plate, this colorful dish with its basil and parsley garnish reminds me of the Italian flag. The tagliatelle is perfectly executed, and serves as another example of Matteo’s talent for using local ingredients to create stellar fare.

Michael brings our secondi (entree) course (Isola—$32), and it’s also a work of art on a plate: fresh Hawaiian shutome (swordfish) is seared to perfection, and sits atop a carnaroli risotto cake, accompanied by a tasty cremini mushroom trifolati and artichoke-thyme puree, all drizzled with sundried tomato oil. It’s a complex dish without being too assertive, and the incredibly moist fish nicely complements the creamy risotto cake.

Matteo’s entire menu is available for take-out, and Gianna tells us the pizzette are particularly popular to-go items. House-made dough is prepared in a delicately portioned oval shape, and is available in 10 different styles, from traditional Margherita (tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil—$10) to Bianca (white pizzetta with brie, ham, garlic, and artichoke hearts—$14). Gluten-free dough is available on all pizzette for an additional $4.

Italians take their dolci (desserts) seriously, and Matteo’s is no exception. Janet and I decide on traditional Tiramisu ($7) and Cannoli ($14), with the latter being stuffed to order according to Gianna. The tiramisu is presented differently than most we’ve encountered—it’s more like a mascarpone, espresso, and chocolate pudding, rather than the more traditional cake-like presentation. Nonetheless, it has the classic mingling of rich, yummy flavors that I’ve come to adore. The cannoli filling (ricotta and mascarpone) is stuffed into a tube-shaped pastry shell and topped with chocolate and strawberry sauce. What’s not to love with these sweet treats?

In addition to their extensive selection of wines, Matteo’s also offers some excellent choices in the digestivi category for after-dinner indulgence. Although we decide not to partake this evening, menu standouts include Vila Massa Limoncello ($14), Amaretto ($10), Kahlua ($9), and Chiarlo Grappa Di Barolo ($12).

When we can eat no more, Gianna stops by to bid us arrivederci. She tells us when she and Matteo conceptualized the Osteria, their vision was to create a rustic, family-style ambiance in the heart of Wailea. Janet and I think they’ve succeeded in their quest, and then some. Buon appetito!

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Matteo’s Osteria, Maui’s first Italian restaurant and wine bar, serving fresh regional specialties, and offering more than 60 wine selections by the glass.

WHERE •

Wailea Town Center, 161 Wailea Ike Place. Plenty of free parking available.

WHEN •

Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 3pm; Happy Hours are Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm and from 9 to 10pm; Dinner is served nightly from 5 to 10pm.

HOW •

Reservations: 891-VINO (8466); matteosmaui.com.

 

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