A few weeks ago, Chef Alida Solomon from Tutti Matti gave a cooking demo at our local St. Andrew’s Market, where she cooked baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt and fresh basil to make a delicious sauce for pasta. The fates conspired against getting a large pot of water to the boil that day at the market and we weren’t able to enjoy it on pasta, but she served it in small cups with a dollop of ricotta mixed with fresh herbs. Since then, I’ve recreated her recipe at home with delicious results: very easy, and very reliant on the tastes of the fresh ingredients.
I haven’t been in Tutti Matti for a long time, probably since just after it first opened, and her demo reminded me of a great Tuscan restaurant in the neighbourhood with which I should become reacquainted. Luckily, my sister Betty and friend Pat read my blog, and decided to take me there for a pre-birthday dinner last night. It wasn’t at all busy on a Saturday night at 7pm; it did pick up by the time that we left, and I think that they draw a bigger crowd during the week from all the office around there.
The food was divine: we started with their speciality appetizer of the evening, “prosciutto four ways”: the classic prosciutto-wrapped melon, prosciutto wrapped around figs and then grilled, the same treatment for peaches, and a fourth way that completely escapes me right now because the grilled prosciutto-wrapped peaches were so freaking good that I was completely transported to another dimension. This would be so easy to do at home: firm, largish pieces of freestone peaches, probably almost a quarter peach, wrapped in prosciutto then grilled until it starts to crisp on the outside, which means that the peach is starting to caramelize a bit inside. We also shared the carpaccio affumicato, which paired smoked duck and smoked venison each with complementary garnishes: orange and pecorino for the duck, and figs, pine nuts and arugula for the venison. The third appetizer, which I know that we ordered from the menu but is not on the version on their website, was thinly sliced roasted pork with a tuna sauce, which sounds a bit weird but was incredible: the sauce had sufficient acidity to perfectly offset the sweetness of the pork.
For the mains, Betty and Pat both had the pasta special, a lobster ravioli with fresh peas; I tried a taste, and it was lovely. All their pastas are made in-house, and the quality really shows. I had the pappardelle con stracotto, which is wide, hand-cut noodles with pulled brisket, cherry tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. The flavour was wonderfully rich and complex, the perfect meal for the cool evening that we were having. I’ve had pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) in Italy, a very typical Tuscan dish, and this was reminiscent of that in all the right ways; I notice that she has tagliatelle con cinghiale on the lunch menu, which definitely motivates me to head over there for a long lunch some day. We accompanied this with a nice – and nicely priced – Chianti Classico Reservi.
We had skipped the secondi (meat or fish course) in order to save room for dessert; for that, we shared a selection of biscotti (including seriously decadent dark chocolate cookies) and a cheese plate, washed down with vin santo. All excellent.
The service was perfect: our main server was there when we needed him, offered friendly advice when asked, kept the water glasses full and generally seemed to enjoy talking to us. Chef Alida came by near the end of our meal and chatted; I know her from the market, although this didn’t seem to be special treatment for us: she was checking in at most tables to make sure that everyone was enjoying their evening. We were not rushed at all, and spent a leisurely 3 hours or so at dinner.
Open for dinner every day except Sunday, and open for lunch on weekdays. Although their website doesn’t mention it (so you should call to check before showing up with bottle in hand), BringMyWine states that they allow BYOW Monday-Thursday for a $30/bottle corkage – pricey, but worth it if you have an expensive bottle at home that you want to have with your meal.