Mattei’s Tavern, the Los Olivos restaurant that has been around since 1886, has just reopened after a hiatus between owners. Brothers Matt and Jeff Nichols ran the place as Brother’s Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern for years, but when they lost their lease last year, they moved to another location in town and opened the restaurant Sides Hardware and Shoes.
Now Charles and Ali Banks of Terroir Selections, former owners of Screaming Eagle and now involved with Sandhi, Mayacamas, Mulderbosch and Leviathan wineries, have purchased Mattei’s Tavern. After some sprucing up, the landmark restaurant reopened Saturday.
Since the Bankses have no restaurant experience, they brought in Robbie Wilson and his wife Emily, of Nashville as partners to run the wine country restaurant. Wilson ran four restaurants, including a steakhouse, sushi bar and gastropub in Nashville. He’s also been involved in restaurants in Aspen, Colo.
The sommelier is Stephane Colling, who was wine director at The Modern, the Danny Meyer restaurant attached to MOMA in Manhattan. He had a phenomenal wine list there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll do with Mattei’s list. He’s worked in a number of top restaurants in England and New York. The Alsace native was even at one point sommelier for France’s ministry of defense.
Wilson plans on not one, but two menus at Mattei’s Tavern. The first, called 1886, features traditional dishes such as beef tartar, campfire trout and wood-fired chicken. The other, called 2013--“inspirations from Los Olivos”--lists dishes such as grilled octopus with scarlet runner beans and preserved lemons, smoked lamb’s neck with refried cannellini beans and salsa verde marmalade, or halibut with lemon ash and olive “debris.”
Don’t miss the “platters” category where you can find “Morro Bay’s Greatest Hits,”oysters on the half shell, shrimp and hamachi served on a vintage turntable. I can’t quite picture “Felix Mattei’s Dirty Laundry,” though, which features housemade salumi and sausages hanging from a miniature clothesline.
The new Mattei’s Tavern is now open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and lunch Friday through Sunday. Call (805) 688-3550 for reservations.