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Hey, man, quit Bogarting those baked clams

You do, however, need to muster a mite more art when it comes to even so deceptively simple an offering as chopped salad ($21). The kitchen had subdivided this for us, so we each got equal portions of shredded greens, tomato, and red pepper tossed with squares of salami and provolone, pre-sliced and presumably straight from the deli. The black olives were the canned California variety. I'm not saying the salad was bad — it even had a kind of homespun charm, I guess. But if I could turn back the clock and do it all over again, I'd just order another big plate of those clams.

Ravioli stuffed with minced crab and ladled with pink shrimp sauce laced with vermouth looked pretty. The ravioli, which I'm told is homemade from a local purveyor, were the size of tea saucers. The crab filling I found a tad gamey, and the sauce, though shrimp-flavored and creamy, didn't have a lot of nuance. Still, we managed to spill quite a bit of that pink sauce on the tablecloth as we doled ourselves second and third helpings.

We hadn't quite given up on vegetables, so we ordered a green giant-sized portion of sautéed spinach ($15) to go with our veal Marsala ($30). The greens were slick with olive oil and studded with sweet, whole, baked garlic cloves. A vegetarian could make a fine meal on this dish. Our veal entrée was pounded very thin, rendering it featureless and tasteless, and honestly, those button mushrooms and a one-dimensional Marsala sauce didn't add much to our pleasure, although we spilled more gravy on the tablecloth as we heaped our plates. Of course, if I had to do it again, I might just order another plate of baked clams.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

Matteo's

233 S. Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Boca Raton

Matteo's

1825 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.
Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Hallandale Beach

Matteo's

4300 U.S. Highway 1
Jupiter, FL 33477

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Jupiter

Details

Dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. at both locations. Lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hallandale.
39 SE First Ave., Boca Raton, 561-392-0773; new location after mid-January: 233 S. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Also at 1825 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Hallandale Beach, 954-455-4050.

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Cannoli ($7) for dessert? Sure. This one didn't look like any cannoli I'd ever eaten — it was more a fat wedge than a thin tube, but hell, it was really good. There was lots of sweet creamy ricotta, thin toasted almonds, and a flaky pastry shell, and I didn't even mind the dribblings of what looked like Hershey's syrup (which anyway is exactly what you'd be served at a thousand Italian-American homes from Camden to Roslyn). If I had it to do all over again, I'd order three or four plates of baked clams and a cannoli or two, and I wouldn't share any of it with anybody.

On our way out, we lingered over the display of photos at the door, old Sal Sorrentino himself, pictured in a hundred poses with his arms wrapped around the wasp-waists and rock-hard shoulders of many a long-forgotten or nearly over-the-hill B-picture character actor, TV starlet, or athlete. They'd all eaten at Matteo's. Maybe they'd even had baked clams. Wasn't that Oprah, like, 30 years and 70 pounds ago?

Nah, it wasn't.

Sure it was. And there was that guy, you know the guy. Richard Farina, he was in Raging Bull.

No, that was the other guy — Frank Vincent, from The Sopranos. And anyway, you're thinking of Dennis Farina. He used to play the detective — what was his name? Joe Montana? Fontana? — in Law & Order.I hear he's doing cartoon voice-overs now.

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