Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos Embraces Timeless History but Fuels Creative Culinary Change

History counts. Mattei's Tavern, one of the oldest rustic wood structures in California, gets high marks for establishing a new beginning, just as popular, if not more than its roots.
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By Nancy Chuda founder and Editor in Chief of LuxEcoLiving and co-founder of Healthy Child Healthy World

Emily and Robbie Wilson pay homage to the new Mattei's Tavern

Los Olivos California. Dining with best friends, James and Nancy Chuda are joined by Olivia Newton-John and John Easterling at the new Mattei's.

History counts. Mattei's Tavern, one of the oldest rustic wood structures in California, gets high marks for establishing a new beginning, just as popular, if not more than its roots.

Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos was once a stagecoach stop run by Felix Mattei. In 1886 it welcomed dust laden and weary travelers who were appreciative of eating anything but stale biscuits.

From ranchers to technocrats, liberals and conservatives, the once thriving watering hole is now historically hipper.

But what makes it so very special is the youthful exuberance and dedication of its new owners. Chef Robbie Wilson and his wife and business partner Emily Perry Wilson. Yes, young but forever dedicated, the couple relocated from Nashville having opened four restaurants. They wanted to live and work in a place where they could someday raise a family and feel confident that the environment would support both; raising children in an atmosphere that welcomes nature and organics.

When the restaurant opened last July the Wilson's faced a very big challenge. Some even said the new Mattei's could never or would ever live up to the old Mattei's in terms of food selection, service and atmosphere. Having reverence for the past was the Wilson's stealth vision. Both Emily and Robbie agree. "This is all about paying homage to this property and to one of the greatest valleys in the world."

Claiming Rights to Felix Mattei's Gold

Patrons can be assured, the location is the same, the sound of wind rustling through the wisteria vines, the large leather couches, Essex Green walls, the original fireplace welcomes guests in a dining alcove... and if these walls could talk... surveyors in 1886 would be splitting hairs over the vast untouched and uninhabited surrounds.

The Menu Then and Now

Of course back then they didn't have open-fired Pizza's but today Mattei's new kitchen can boast much more. We dined in a very special spot where we could absorb the incredible creative forces at work. The aroma's are the same. You can smell the oak-burning barbecue grill and watch as the chef's assistants slice up unimaginable sized steaks, bone-in-rib-eyes, all for the not so weary travelers who expend less on fuel for their hybrid designed cars and save more room for their stomachs.

We sampled a wonderful selection of courses beginning with Morro Bay's Greatest Hits which features oysters, sweet shrimp and Hamachi served on on a Lazy Stereo Susan-turned record player. We jumped when the pan-seared trout appeared on a plate adorned with fresh mango. It was still looking at us... but what the was so delicious I'm still craving the taste. It was so fresh.

Oh yes, the Skirt Steak with fresh valley roasted peppers was superb!

And we hated to share the Cornbread.

In fact, we ordered more. If you are lover of lettuce and who isn't, 80% of Chef Wilson's produce is grown organically in the valley... which means the day it is served is the day it was picked. What a treasure.

For those who want to basque in the past and taste the treasures that was once Mattei's favorites you can still be infused and inspired by the year 1886 and order some of Felix Mattei's favorites... grilled artichoke, beef tartar, pork shank, skirt steak and wood-fired chicken. And for those who welcome modernity under the heading of 2013 (which is almost over or do I need to remind you?) try the Hamachi chorizo, grilled octopus, a 36-hour cooked brisket, slow-roasted sea bass and on-the-bone Salisbury lamb.

Our group loving veggies ordered ample portions of sides. The crispy brussel sprouts and the OMG! corn brulée was like having the best deserts.

Once you leave the new Mattei's Tavern you'll be craving more. The Wilson's have earned more than just accolades for their ambitious and successful endeavors. You can't recreate the wheel but you sure can turn spokes while gaining traction in a town that still prides itself on the power of hooves.

Editor's Notes:

Mattei's Tavern is located at 2350 Railway Ave., Los Olivos, 93441

Call to make a reservation today at 805-688-3550

Photo Credits: Nancy Chuda LuxEcoLiving Media Group