Italian food served al fresco at hidden gem in Nairobi

Sunday October 24 2021

Matteo's Italian Restaurant. PHOTO | KARI MUTU


An outdoor ambience, great food and wine at Matteo’s Italian Restaurant characterised my first visit to Matteo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Karen, Nairobi.

It took me a while to find the rather obscure signboard at the gate and it is hard to tell from the main road that there is an eatery behind the wall. Once I entered the restaurant I realised why I did not recognise the place. The extensive grounds were formerly a residence and horse farm. Some of the barns have been converted into the indoor part of the restaurant.

My friends and I sat outside on the patio as it was a beautiful sunny day. The white table cloths and full table settings brought a smart look to the place, and the big potted plants and a garden view created a relaxing ambience.

We started our meal with a typical Italian appetiser of focaccia bread topped with cherry tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella cheese and rucola leaves. Drizzled with olive oil and a shake of black pepper, focaccia bread is a great way to whet one’s appetite.

For the main course I chose the marinated grilled lamb chops, which may not sound like a quintessentially Italian meal. But in the highlands of Italy where sheep are raised, lamb is consumed more than any other meat. The chops were nicely seasoned, came with a pepper gravy and accompaniments of chips and creamy spinach.

One of my lunch companions went for ricotta cheese and spinach ravioli in creamy butter and sage sauce. It is a simple Italian dish and delicious, especially with a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese and ground black pepper. My other friend selected the grilled calamari with a lemon butter sauce that she really enjoyed.


Calamari served at Matteo's Italian Restaurant. PHOTO | KARI MUTU

On the menu I saw that Matteo’s has a wide selection of seafood dishes. The fritto misto is a combination of deep-fried seafood, served with chips and vegetables. A thick fish soup made with a tomato base sounds like a heart-warming option on a cold day and the crispy octopus in potato cream piqued my interest.

The beverage menu has a substantial selection of wines, cocktails, juices and fruit smoothies. For our lunch, we ordered a chilled rose wine that was light-bodied enough to pair well with the main courses that we chose.

I can rarely resist a good cheesecake so that is what I had for dessert. Matteo’s makes a wonderful, soft-filling cheesecake topped with sliced strawberries and a coulis sauce.

Because of the nice garden setting, fine weather and good wine we ended up staying at Matteo’s until early evening.

Due to Covid-19, Matteo’s had stopped their weekly jazz nights and live bands but I understand they have restarted the events. I will definitely be back for that