Monday, September 27, 2010

Matteo's Ristorante Italiano

With all the ringing endorsements for Matteo's the other day here on my blog, how could I not get over there and give it a try? As I often do with Italian, I invited several of my family members to go with us so I could try lots of things and because they tend not to be as jaded as I am about Italian food in Indy.

Matteo’s is in Noblesville right on the square—it is a very quaint and attractive location both outside and in. The interior feels warm and like it has been there a long time, although not in a cheesy kind of way. The room is much larger than I would expect from the outside and features tin ceilings and décor that makes you feel like you are in a nice restaurant, but not so nice that anyone would feel uncomfortable regardless of what they are wearing. Our server was exceptionally friendly and helpful, and although told us at one point she was one of the newer servers there, she seemed confident in her job, yet still easy going with us.

We started with several appetizers to share, the fried calamari, the pizza margherita, and the olive “all’ascolana.” The calamari was your typical fried calamari with both rings and leggy pieces and was served with marinara for dipping. I found the rings to be too chewy to be enjoyable, but the leggy bits were better. Overall though, this is not something I would order again.

The pizza was pretty good—everyone at the table seemed to enjoy it. Everyone also commented on how large it was (it was really like a regular pizza size and it had quite a bit of cheese and sauce). I don’t think anyone ate more than one piece though, because if you did, you very well might not want anything else. There were six of us so it was a great thing to try with that large of a group, but for fewer people, unless you want to make it your meal with a salad, it would probably be too much. It was a homemade thin crust pizza that had been grilled and topped with marinara, cheese and a bit of basil. The crust was nice and crunchy. There was more cheese on there than I expected, but again, it was quite enjoyable.

Finally we had the olive “all’ascolana” which were large green olives stuffed with ground veal and deep fried and served with Alfredo sauce. My Dad and I were both intrigued with these (I get my love of green olives from him, and my love of black olives from Mom) because we both love olives so much and this was an unusual preparation. The thing I liked about them is they were almost like a meatball in some ways, but the olive kept them a bit moister and gave them the salty/tangy kick you get from an olive. If I am not mistaken, there was a bit of cheese stuffed in there with the veal as well. You definitely needed something to dip them in, but I am not sure if the Alfredo was the right choice. A little too rich for me. These were overall quite interesting, and I enjoyed them because they were different, but would I order them again? I am not sure.

We all got different entrées, and I tried as many of them as I could. I had the seafood special which was Corvina fish served over seasoned rice with a light cream sauce, artichokes, olives and tomatoes. Corvina is a fairly firm white fish. In this presentation it was pan seared and was cooked very well. It was tender and flaky and I really enjoyed it. The cream sauce was light and buttery and not over the top—I loved the flavor of the artichokes and olives and tomatoes to get that acidic kick that I always enjoy, but it was all well balanced with the slight richness of the sauce. I liked that large high quality olives were used in the sauce, not just green and black salad olives. These were large kalamatas and maybe cerignolas? Anyway, they were large enough; they had to be cut in half in the preparation, which I also liked because you got just the right amount in each bite. I didn’t eat a lot of the rice (I am not a huge rice pilaf person) but what I did have was nice and tender and mildly seasoned.

Hubby had the “Tortellini Matteo’s” which apparently has won some local awards throughout the years for best pasta in Indy. These were your classic tortellini stuffed with cheese, and covered in a light cream sauce with ham, mushrooms, onion and parmesan cheese. Hubby was very pleased with these and found them very tasty. I had several bites of his as well and liked the ham and onion flavor imparted in the sauce, and the fact that the sauce just lightly coated all the pasta, and that it wasn’t totally swimming in it. Just enough to give it a nice flavor and texture, but not overwhelm the cheese flavor in the pasta. It was hearty and good. Hubby thought it was one of the best tortellini dishes he has had in Indy, but I don’t know that I would say it was the best pasta in Indy.

My sister, who was sitting on the opposite side of me, had the filet mignon baked in puff pastry and served with a garlic, roasted pine nut and gorgonzola cream sauce. The steak was cooked very nicely medium rare, although she ordered it medium. She didn’t care, because she likes both (and I was happy because I prefer medium rare). The steak was nice. I liked the puff pastry as well, the bite I had had a decent crispiness to it. The sauce being served on the side was probably for the best, or the whole thing would have gotten too soggy. I only got a bit of the sauce on my bite, but my sister said it had a decent garlic and gorgonzola flavor to it.

My Mom had another one of the day’s specials that sounded very intriguing and I was glad she got it. It was crepes stuffed with pears and asiago cheese and covered in a very light cheese sauce. It was very unique, and while at first it almost sounded like a dessert to me, once I tasted it, it still had a soft savory flavor to it. It was quite delicate, but really quite good. I don’t know if I could have eaten a whole order of it myself, but I certainly enjoyed the bites I had.

My Dad had the veal picatta which I probably had the least amount of. He enjoyed it and said he thought the portion was very generous and that the lemon sauce was nice. We both right away missed the capers that were not present, and I think they would have made this dish better. The bite I had was okay, but probably my least favorite thing on the table. The sauce had the right buttery/lemony flavor, but some capers would have brought it together.

Of course, even though we had had way too much food, we had to try dessert, mainly because we had seen other servers making bananas foster tableside and we all agreed we needed to try it. The lady who made it (the hostess maybe?) was quite charming and explained that she had only lit one person on fire the entire time she had done it. And as it happened, that man was sitting at the table next to us, so obviously having his shoe set on fire did not deter him from returning. She first made caramel sauce, then sautéed the bananas in it and flambéed it all with several types of liqueur and served it over vanilla ice cream. I appreciated the fact that they made what was meant to be a serving for two people into a small individual serving for each of us. The one universal thing that everyone commented on was that they liked this dish (Dad said he only wished they kept the ice cream cold while cooking he rest because it was kind of mushy by the time we got it).

So in conclusion, I thank you guys who have been telling me to go to Matteo’s, as we had a nice meal. Matteo’s does a great job with ambiance and service for sure and that alone would likely lure me back. Food-wise, I would say it is certainly better than a lot of the Italian places in Indy that I have been. However, I still think based on my experiences to date; Indy is lacking a truly outstanding Italian place.

Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano
40 North 9th Street
Noblesville, IN 46060


  1. The Asian Grill right next door is a favorite of ours too. The chilled spring rolls served at dinner only are really nice and the Thai beef salad is interesting too!

  2. Matteo's is a favorite of mine so I am glad you had a meal you enjoyed there. I too was surprised to see such spacious interior the first time I went there.

  3. I too have lamented over the lack of an outstanding, truly authentic Italian restaurant in Indy. It makes me want to drown my sorrows in a case of Brunello di Montalcino. I have yet to try Matteo's, but from the photos, it seems that many of the dishes suffer from a common plight in Indy's Italian / Italian-American establishments--smothered in too much sauce or cheese. I still long for the now defunct Tavola di Tosa in Broad Ripple (run by the Hanslits), which is probably the closest we've ever had to authentic regional Italian cuisine. Even then, the chef had to make concessions to please the masses of Hoosier palates: Maybe you can convince some of your contacts in the Bay Area to transfer here and give us some of the fine Italian cuisine that the area is privileged to have. Even some of of the hit-or-miss Italian places in North Beach (IMHO) completely outdo anything we have here (I'm looking at you Rose Pistola.)

  4. Fabuloso: yes, I wish I would have gotten the chance to try the Hanslits' restaurant while it was open. You can get the yummy zuchini fritters (that I believe are Chef Tony's recipe) at Pizzology though. And of course the pasta at Nicole Taylors.

    And I only wish I had pull to bring some of the wonderful Italian food from the Bay Area. I think if Indy people got a chance to try amazing true Italian food, they would never go back. But then again, I guess Tavola di Tosa didn't make it, and lots of people have lamented its passing to me... so who knows?

  5. Jessica in NoblesvilleSeptember 27, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    You went to Matteo's and didn't try the lasagna?? Heavens forbid, you must go back! And also order their tagliatella, it's my favorite back-up if they run out of the lasagna.

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm lucky to live nearby, we occasionally get take-out from Matteo's on a hectic weeknight, or go with friends on weekends. Their soups are also fantastic, they made the best mushroom soup I've ever had.

    I'm guessing the hostess who made your bananas foster was Emily, the co-owner and wife to chef Matteo. Tall, blonde and statuesque? Their bananas foster is the only one I've had where they add both fresh orange and lemon juice to the pan. Personally, I like my vanilla ice cream to be soft with this dish, gets all nice and soupy-gooey with the caramel sauce.

  6. Jessica-

    ok, you are the second person today to ask me why I didn't get the lasagna and I am it is a special they offer because it isn't on the menu...? And they did not offer it the night we were there, and I will have to say, there were some people in my party who really wanted lasagna, so they were disappointed.. maybe they did the crepes this night instead? Well, we will have to give it another go one of these nights!

  7. Jessica in NoblesvilleSeptember 27, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    Correct, the lasagna is never listed on their menu, but is presented as one of the nightly specials. The flavors will change, such as chicken with basil, homemade sausage, vegetable ... and I have seen them run out on some evenings. I wonder if that's what happened the night you were there. Worth a trip back, just to try it!

  8. What I can't believe is that there is no mention of their bread. I love the stuff and was so happy when they started selling it at the farmer's market. I hope you did get to try it.


  9. Stuff constantly smothered in cheese is not Italian food.

    Tavola di Tosa is sorely missed. Unfortunately, Indianapolis did not have enough people who appreciated Tavola to keep it in business.

  10. on a side note, I heard there is a new restaurant going in to the old L'explorateur space (and isn't that where Tavola was?) Anyone know any details?