Going downtown to forget all your troubles, forget all your cares? One way to do it is with a big veal cutlet, hammered thin against the bone, fortified against the drying effects of a hot pan by a crunchy, salty exoskeleton and served unadorned save for a thatch of green leaves and wedge of lemon.
What’s waiting for you at Matteo’s Downtown is a precise study of pan-Italian popularity for the after-work set. Sure, for every extra 20 seats in a restaurant you lose commensurate points on the intimacy scale, but as any office manager knows, corporate dining is like negotiating a corkscrew. You need somewhere big enough to take a group, you need somewhere with prices that don't make those on lower award rates blanch, and somewhere that also serves booze, because socialising is easier with a Spritz on hand. And if you've ever tried to corral a group of diners with no more in common than their access cards you'll know the one cuisine everyone can (mostly) agree on is Italian. It’s not too spicy, and has the right balance of familiar and fancy.
While Matteo, the flagship, light-and-bright Double Bay pizza parlour, is a white linen-loving product of the deep east, Downtown is where things get a lot more accessible. Literally, because this ground-floor venue inhabiting a huge slice of space under a Bond Street tower is flat and spacious, and also figuratively – they've broadened the scope to its most generous proportions. See the mozzarella menu where burrata, mozzarella, stracciatella and ricotta are paired with anything from caviar to lemon leaves. See also the 13-strong woodfired pizza list that ensures that if you don’t want to stretch to the aforementioned cutlet for $42, you could bring your dinner in sub $20 as long as Marinara is your topping of choice.
The most crowd-pleasing element of all is the crescent bar that fills steadily from early clock-off to make the most of their 4-6pm aperitivo hour. Tap wine is $7, beers are $8, Italian cocktails are $15, and every drink comes with some complimentary snacks: perhaps a little toasted crust with a bruschetta-style topping of diced Caprese salad, or a tile of ham, cheese and tomato focaccia.
No, this isn’t the kind of place that conjures the feeling of a mountain trattoria in Emilia-Romagna, or even the Latin exuberance of a Roman pizzeria, but it does serve a textbook net of al dente linguine trapping flecks of crab meat in an arrabiata given extra nightshade power from wilted cherry tomatoes. Good quality, mid-priced dining with mass appeal in the CBD isn’t so much a missing piece as it is a yawning chasm, which is why we’re glad Matteo packed his bags and headed downtown to fill the gap.