Different families,â€ I frequently tell my kids, â€œmake different choices.â€ Iâ€™ve found this to be very helpful in addressing questions such as â€œWhy does he get to stay up until 11 on school nights?â€ and â€œHow come they get candy bars in their lunches?
The phrase also came in handy years ago, when I visited Sacramentoâ€™s Supper Club restaurant with my son. He discovered owners Matt and Yvette Woolstonâ€™s sonsâ€” Jake, Joey and Tommyâ€”in their own, curtained-in kidsâ€™ area in the center of the restaurant, doing homework and playing video games. â€œWhy do they get to play like thatâ€”in a restaurant?â€ asked my son enviously. As he pondered the glamorousness of their young, food service-centered lives, I delivered the â€œdifferent familiesâ€ explanation and admired Matt and Yvette, who seemed to be seamlessly handling the work/family challenge.
Fast-forward about seven years to the present, and we find ourselves sitting in the Woolston familyâ€™s new restaurant, Matteoâ€™s Pizza & Bistro in the Five Points shopping center at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Arden Way. A well-muscled, handsome teen, more man than boy, sails by the table, tray in hand, face plastered with a grin. Iâ€™m shocked to realize that this is Jake Woolston, now 18 years old. All grown up, and a member of Matteoâ€™s staff, Jake seems as enthusiastically poised as his parents to welcome the Arden/Carmichael community into this casual, attractive new eatery.
Â Â Â Â Unified as ever (sons Joey and Tommy are also at Matteoâ€™s on a daily basis), the Woolstons have designed a restaurant that focuses on value. Matteoâ€™s doesnâ€™t have the swank of Supper Club, nor are the dishes as complex or innovative, but thatâ€™s not the goal of this new venture. Offering solid, flavorful food at reasonable prices, the neighborhood spot invites regular folks to drop in when theyâ€™re tired and donâ€™t want to cook or simply wish to be well fed without blowing a hole in their budget. After several visits, I think Matt and Yvette are hitting the mark.
When they took over the space (a former Steveâ€™s Pizza), â€œit was all wood,â€ says Matt Woolston, rolling his eyes. â€œEverywhere. It was awful.â€ Their first impulse was to rip it all down and start fresh. They didnâ€™t, and Iâ€™m glad they exercised some restraint. The faded wood panels they compassionately spared add a delicious rusticity to the space. Colorful paintings, including several by Supper Club cook (and local artist) Mark Niemeyer, hang on the walls. Matteoâ€™s is more bistro than pizza parlor, and its ambiance is equally appropriate for families and for couples seeking a comfortable night out.
Longtime local chef Stu Edgcombe is at the helm, overseeing a menu that is compact and approachable. Thereâ€™s no shirking on first-rate ingredients. The main attractionâ€”pizzaâ€”gives newcomers Hot Italian and OneSpeed a run for their money. One night, I happened to catch pizza cook John Adams thoughtfully stretching his dough in the kitchen, and he told me (after some pestering) that he uses a small amount of yeast and ages the dough for two days to develop its flavors. Iâ€™m not sure what effect this has, but the pizza crust is damned good, attaining that chewy-crispy-airy trifecta.
Â Â Â Â Try The Stu, a pizza topped with wild mushrooms, salty slices of prosciutto and sweetly caramelized onions. A perky handful of fresh arugula strewn on top adds a bitter pop, and truffle oil contributes an ineffable earthiness. I also loved The California, slathered with rich garlic cream and topped with chunks of organic chicken, baby artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese.
Â Â Â Â The Woolstons and Edgcombe offer more than just pizzas. For an appetizer, the kitchen deep-fries calamari along with buttermilk-battered lemon slices. (Not a new combo, I know, but I love the sour burst of flavor.) Pastas include a perfectly balanced farfalle, with judicious amounts of house-smoked chicken, andouille sausage and roasted sweet peppers. Sandwich lovers will have a field day with the Tree Hugger BLT, constructed with housemade portobello mushroom bacon. Thereâ€™s also an audacious pink-peppercorn and cumin-rubbed Angus sirloin steak, topped with blue cheese butter and served with tufts of garlicky sautÃ©ed spinach and a lumpy pile of roasted garlic mashed potatoes. At $15.95, the steak is an unquestionably great value (and it tastes marvelous).
Â Â Â Â As the Woolston family has grown and matured, so has its modest Sacramento restaurant empire. Iâ€™m pleased as punch that Matt and Yvette have brought their talents (and their sons) to the suburbs.
Five Points, 5132 Arden Way, Carmichael; (916) 779-0727; pizzamatteo.com
Hours: Lunch Tuesdayâ€“Sunday 11:30 a.m.â€“5 p.m., dinner Sunday and Tuesdayâ€“Thursday 5â€“9 p.m., Fridayâ€“Saturday 5â€“10 p.m.
For the youngâ€™uns: The kidsâ€™ menu includes mac â€™nâ€™ cheese, popcorn chicken and cheeseburgersÂ
Sweet ending: Order the ice cream sandwich, made with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
Affordable sip: The wine list is reasonably priced