The restaurant is named after D'Elia's two-month-old baby boy. "Finding the name is the hardest thing and in the end Eddie convinced me to go with Matteo," says D'Elia. "It means I have to put a lot of soul and work into this restaurant because it has to be perfect with my son's name."
This genuine big-heart Italian nature is indicative of of D'Elia and his signature ventures. The three mates had been chatting about opening a new venue together for a while — and when they visited the Limoncello site, things just fell into place. "They knew I was looking for something and said they liked the look of the Limoncello site,"says D'Elia. "I actually used to work as head chef there and we got a good opportunity to take it."
While Matteo will cater to families during the day, the vibe will change to a cocktail den by night, with DJs on the weekends and Quynh Nguyen (Brooklyn Social, Luis Tan, Icebergs and China Diner) behind the drinks list. Cocktails will focus on simple ingredients with some Italian twists, like blood orange and Amaro Montenegro.
As with Da Orazio, the Italian eatery will be all about house-made pastas, pizzas and share plates, focusing on simple Italian dishes — think seasonal snapper cooked in rock salt, char-grilled octopus (this reminds D'Elia of summer in Europe), and, for winter, saffron capunti (that's a pea pod-shaped pasta) with osso buco ragu. The traditional pizza menu will include a few focaccias and tiramisu for dessert because, as D'Elia puts it, "every Italian restaurant needs to have a tiramisu".
The 150-seater features a Mediterranean-style fit-out by interior designer Ian Nessick, which includes a six-metre-long marble and stone bar, hand-rolled porcelain light fittings and upcycled aged timber ceilings and panelling that give the feel of an old Italian house. The new pizza oven, which just arrived from Italy, is the hero of the open kitchen and the finishes are multicoloured Italian terrazzo throughout — that chipped marble set in concrete that is characteristic of the Mediterranean. "We wanted to elevate the interior to match the food," says Nessick. "Ori [Orazio] is authentic Italian and cooks from the heart, so that is at the soul of the fit-out as well, and why the kitchen is at the centre of the venue."
The colour palate is earthy and light, with blonde American oak tables and chairs with rust coloured upholstery. The open deck out front has been designed to feel like you're sitting on a luxury yacht, and will host an aperitivo hour. "The space has a really handmade feel and is turning into the most beautiful little restaurant," says Nessick.
D'Elia has recently made the decision to leave his hatted Bondi restaurant so he can focus on Restaurant Matteo full time, with his business partner, Maurice Terzini, taking the reigns and Icebergs' chef Monty Koludrovic stepping up in the kitchen at Da Orazio. Of the new Double Bay restaurant, he says: "I want this space to be something people will enjoy as an experience and make them feel like they're coming to eat with me and my family."
Matteo will open on Wednesday, July 5 at 29 Bay Street, Double Bay. For more info, visit matteosydney.com.