Excellent New Mexican restaurant just west of UNM
First visit: January 6, 2012
Owners Tanya Fitzjerrell and Fredo Chavez opened their first Matteo’s on Coors three years ago. Needing to expand the size of the restaurant, they moved the operation to what used to be the Souper!Salad! on Central west of University. We didn’t like Souper!Salad!, but we love Matteo’s. Good move.
Our Friday night restaurant crawl brought us to Matteo’s, a relative newcomer to Central just west of University. Large and spotlessly clean, we were greeted by Tanya, a charming and effervescent owner and host. She brought us complimentary Chips and Salsa and then recited a list of her favorite dishes, and we decided on Fredo’s Nightmare and Carne Adovada Stuffed Sopaipillas, my benchmarking dish. We dug into the chips with abandon. They are warm, and the salas is scratch made, bright and fresh, and muy picante. Delicious.
I started with a cup od Posole, which Tanya assured me was picante. This is a posole rojo, loaded with tender hominy and large chunks of succulent and very tender pork. The broth is delicious and muy picante. The red hits the back of the mouth and top of the throat gently, and builds with each spoonful. One of the best posples I have had in ABQ. Next time, I’ll get a bowl. It’s that good. When I am in need of a posole fix, I now know where to go.
Jane had Fredo’s Nightmare. This is a 7-oz. hunk of sirloin that is perfectly grilled to a juicy medium rare and covered with green chile. This is a terrific green: high on the piquancy scale and smoky and tasty. I was reminded of the Steak Dunnigan at Pink Adobe in Santa Fe. Yes, it is that good. It is accompanied with refritos and rice. In many restaurants, the beans and rice seem to be afterthoughts. Not so here. Each is able to stand alone. The refritos are made with lard, and are silky smooth. Great texture, and not runny at all. The rice is very tasty.
Almost all New Mexican restaurants serve Carne Adovada Stuffed Sopaipillas. Few succeed as well as Matteo’s. The pork is high-quality stuff, tender and juicy (almost melt-in-your-mouth). The Red is medium dark, earthy and complex, and about half way up the piquancy scale. I substituted papitas for the usual rice, and they are perfect. Beautiful color, texture, and taste without even a hint of the cooking oil. The cook has a great hand. Were I called on to rank this dish, I would place it just below that served at Mary & Tito’s, the gold standard in these here parts. Certainly exceeded my expectations.
Save room for dessert. I had Natillas. Natillas is a term used to refer different delicacies in the Spanish-speaking world. In Spain, this term refers to a custard dish made with milk and eggs. In Colombia, it does not include eggs and is called natilla instead of “natillas”, and what in other countries is called “natilla” like Colombia.In México and New Mexico, Natillas are also found and resemble a thicker version of the dessert drink called “Atole leche.” At Matteo’s. the dessert is a medium-thick custard and should be eaten warm (neither hot nor cold) for that unbelievable taste sensation. This is nectar for the gods. Save room for this dessert. You will thank me.
Tanya and Fredo are charming folks and seem to be perfectionists. There are 129 restaurants in the Duke City that, according to Urbanspoon, serve New Mexican food. Matteo’s is easily among the best. Jane raved about her meal. I raved about my meal. I will go back at the drop of a hat. The food is that good.
And who is Matteo? He is Tanya Fitzjerrell’s young son. Sweet.
What others are saying
Mina Yamashita — Alibi
“Now UNM-area diners can sit down to huevos rancheros, burritos or a nice little breakfast steak at Matteo’s. Their extensive menu includes New Mexican standards for breakfast, lunch and dinner—and, yes, there’s a soup and salad bar. Service is efficient, the sopaipillas are billowy and prices are student-friendly.”
Andrea Lin— ABQ Journal, December 30, 2011
“I got word that Matteo’s was a well-regarded family spot from the far South Valley that had relocated and expanded, and the word was good.
“Opened by Tanya Fitzjerrell and Fredo Chavez and oozing with friendliness, Matteo’s is a place to take the whole family or even the extended family. Even the sign over the door says, “Enter a stranger, leave as a friend.” Space abounds in the restaurant in both wide booths and dozens of small tables that could be assembled to accommodate a reunion. That’s a good thing, as the food at Matteo’s is family-friendly New Mexican comfort, right down to the salty tortilla chips placed on the table.”
“My future visits are sure to include a sampling of menudo that I hear is outstanding, and I’d not be a good New Mexican if I didn’t have a plate of huevos rancheros ($5.95), especially if smothered in that roasted green chile. “