BBC Good Food Middle East speaks to Chef Matteo Guerra of MATTO Dubai, to discuss the restaurant’s “crazy” elements, and get his take on where eager UAE foodies looking for a taste of Italy should head to for authentic Italian cuisine.
MATTO translates as ‘crazy’ in Italian. How is this reflected in the restaurant and its menu?
Upon approaching the MATTO entrance, you will notice a big graffiti-style sign on the wall saying “I feel bad for those who never go crazy.” Alongside the yellow Vespa that serves as a DJ booth, and not to mention the progressive mural by artist Chafa Ghaddar depicting a chef in a close encounter with a fish – I think it’s more than enough to define a place a bit crazy.
When it comes to food, our recipes are classic but often presented in an unordinary way. For instance, our signature dessert MATTO ROCK, has become very popular as you need to use a hammer to break it and enjoy its creamy hazelnut mousse.
What are your best-selling dishes on the menu?
Our Cotoletta alla Milanese is one of our best sellers, and often hailed as one of the best in Dubai. Our regular guest from Milan once told us it was in second place in their eyes, only behind his (Milanese) mum’s take on it!
What is your favourite dish on the menu and why?
Salt baked seabass, which happens to be another best seller at MATTO. People love it, and I consider it one of my favourite for many reasons; while the salt sets to a crust, it also keeps the moisture in the fish, giving a delicious taste. Also, from a more practical point of view of a chef, it’s great as you barely need to scale the fish when cooking it in this way, as the salt crust pulls the skin off alone. This is great both for the server and the guest, as they can enjoy watching the whole process right up until a few minutes before to eat it, creating enormous excitement.
Can you tell our readers about any offers that are running currently?
Every day, we serve the Aperitivo del MATTO from 5.00pm until 8.00pm for only AED 35, which entitles guests to a bitter beverage paired with a salty snack. Every Monday from 7pm, we offer non-stop pizza packages starting from 100 AED. On Fridays, we have a great brunch deal where guests can delight in favourites such as wood-fired pizza, pasta, Parmesan risotto wheels, fresh homemade breads, cheese as well as desserts and so much more.
What do you believe is the secret to running a successful restaurant and keeping customers coming back for more?
Good food and good service are essential to the success of any restaurant, but we try to always add that dash of love and home feeling that you don’t always find in big cities like Dubai. At Matto we have a very high number of returning customers because of this. Our laid-back approach to dining paired with the fact we remember customers’ names and treat them as family definitely serves us well in ensuring customer retention.
Have you had any kitchen nightmares during your career?
Wow, too many to recollect or mention. A server once asked me if there was any egg in eggplant. Too funny!
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with and why?
I enjoy cooking almost everything, but I prefer fish as it is very versatile and lends itself to lots of flavours.
Are there any ingredients coming into season that we can expect to make an appearance on MATTO’s menu the winter months?
White fresh truffle is coming into season, and we will be implementing it even more in our new menu that will come out very soon, along with many more surprises!
For UAE foodies looking to travel to Italy, where would you recommend visiting for a real taste of authentic Italian cuisine?
I would say Sicilian, as it shows traces of all cultures that have existed on the island over the last two millennia. I believe it showcases the authenticity of Italian cuisine, although it has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences that makes it unique and rich in flavour at the same time.
Details: To make a booking at MATTO, visit the website or call 04 444 1335.