Matteo Vicinanza pays attention to the details. It’s what drives him to arrive at his Matteo’s Garden Club eatery in Palm Beach early every morning to start baking his signature crusty Italian bread from scratch. It’s what compels him to make every soup from scratch — from butternut squash with lump crab and a dollop of crème fraiche to killer matzoh ball soup to gazpacho topped with croutons.
His pasta is painstakingly rolled out on a KitchenAid attachment, each piece cut by hand and filled by him alone, every day. Every one of his desserts, except for the gelati and sorbets, are homemade — from the tiramisu to the warm, flourless chocolate grappa cake, the limoncello cake made with homemade limoncello, and the light, addictive almond macaroons. Those macaroons are so beloved that guests will request them and serve them as party favors at their birthday parties.
Vicinanza alone creates every dish and every placement of every garnish. He fights with his Labrador for mangoes from his tree to use in his mango chutney, picks thousands of mulberries from his tree to use in desserts, grows his own fresh herbs and later turns them into dishes at his restaurant, which opened in January 2012.
Up in the front of the 72-seat restaurant, his wife Tami Vicinanza has come to know guests by name, to know their allergies and their families, to know that her oldest guest is 102.
“When people come in, they feel like they’re part of a special club,” she says.
Guests find the place through word of mouth. The eatery has no sign out front. No advertising of any sort is allowed because of island zoning restrictions. Matteo’s is located on property that is managed by The Sun and Surf Condominiums, which is zoned for residential. They lease from the Sun and Surf and are considered residential, hence the restrictions on a sign and advertising. So the spot is marked by six yellow and white umbrellas.
Once inside, there’s no doubt you’ve entered chef Vicinanza’s domain. He’s the chef creating dishes such as Granny Smith Ravioli ($9 appetizer) stuffed with mascarpone and Granny Smith apples, served in a sage butter apple reduction. And there’s the whisper-light eggplant tower ($9) that’s so popular theycan’t keep it in stock, a Veal Scaloppini Shiitake ($26) that’s so tender you can cut it with a table knife.
“People love homemade food,” says Tami Vicinanza. “… It would probably be cheaper and definitely be quicker to order it ready-made. But Matteo thinks it’s important that his bread, pasta and desserts are all homemade. And people taste the difference. They do.”
MATTEO’S GARDEN CLUB
Located at 140 Sunrise Avenue, Palm Beach; 561-833-6600; open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.