Matthew's Trattoria & Martini Lounge

 153 E 13th St
Erie, PA

A Taste of Someplace Not Erie

Having grown up around Erie and moving to more metropolitan areas, I was quite surprised and delighted to find this upscale eatery upon returning home. Fortunately for me, it opened within a year of my homecoming, and I was kindly introduced to it within a month of its opening.

Upon entering the front door, I felt I’d been whisked back to DC or Columbus or Cleveland, where it isn’t such a near impossibility to find a decent place to entertain and be entertained—to see and be seen.

The polished granite bar top with accompanying jewel-toned seat cushions and overstuffed chairs, ottomans and sofas, is softly lighted by hand-beaded lamps imported from India. And when I told my knowledgeable and pleasant bartender that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to drink, he asked, “what’s your usual poison?” I explained to him that I have a deep affinity for Tanqueray gin and that my chosen presentation is a heavy pour with a pinch of tonic and lime—but that on this particular occasion, I felt I ought to branch out. “A Tom Collins, perhaps?” he quizzed and professed to be a maker of the best of them. What followed was a classic cocktail lover’s dream—mixed perfectly and clearly not just whipped together, but carefully measured with affectionate attention to important details.

While my company and I were simply there to meet a friend of his—one of the waitstaff, and didn’t plan on dining, Sara politely insisted we take a load off and join her at a table for dinner.

I ordered another classic to match my cocktail—the Veal Marsala. That the waitress forgot to bring a knife with my meal at first distracted me—right up until she suggested that the Veal would be fork tender, which it was to my delight. Now I’ve had many great meals in my time, but this was seriously the first I had ever had that made me lean back in my seat in disbelief; in addition to the tenderness of the meat, it’s flavor was out of this world. I’d not seen a Marsala in the past dressed with such generous and flavorful sauce, and the sauteed Portobellas that topped it off were a wet dream come true. Worth noting, while the red wine reduction’s flavor was like butter and velvet, and as much of it as the meat wore, the taste of the veal was by no means overpowered by it. And what a value at $15, especially since it was paired with roasted baby red potatoes (which were themselves seasoned with just the right amount of garlic, salt, rosemary and fresh black pepper). The only thing that could have been better was the vegetable (green and yellow wax beans with baby carrots steamed with salt and pepper in a bath of chicken stock). But for the simple fact that the dish, for its price, was even served with both a starch and a vegetable, made the Marsala’s value tops!

Oh—and I didn’t even mention the included-in-the-price salad of fresh, locally grown spring greens dressed with a house-made balsamic vinaigrette (so good they bottle and sell it) with imported Gorgonzola cheese.

To top off this whole experience, the owner/manager stopped by our table, which was unexpected even considering that one of her off-duty waitstaff was dining with us. She was kind enough to sit down with us for a few minutes while I drooled over my dinner. The place seats over 150—and the owners (the executive chef and his manager wife) make it a point to visit every table, every night.

Of course I couldn’t write a complete review without mentioning the meal my companion ordered—or the dessert.

The friend and confidante who introduced me to Matthew’s was actually enjoying his first visit as well. He’d ordered another classic—Clams Olio ed Aglio. There was plenty of it, so he didn’t mind sharing a few forkfulls (and taking nearly half of it home, there was so much). I’ve had my share of clams and sauce out and about, but it’s not a dish I usually care for when dining because I typically run across bland sauces with a mere few clams tossed in. Not this time around; his was a plate of imported Semolina linguine steeped in a rich sauce flavored with plenty of garlic, basil and onion and literally littered with huge chunks of tender sea clams that insisted on melting in my mouth with only the slightest effort at chewing. WOW!

And now for dessert! Our waitress had told us several times from our initial seating to “save room for our tiramisu—it was voted best in the region.” You can only imagine my frustration and disappointment when upon finishing our meals and requesting the famous dessert, she had to explain that they had sold out the tiramisu while we were enjoying our dinners. I decided to settle on the chocolate heart—and have been a faithful consumer of it ever since. The heart is essentially a frozen ice cream truffle with a ball of raspberry sorbet at its center, surrounded by Gran Marnier flavored chocolate ice cream all neatly wrapped in a dark chocolate-raspberry shell.

I must explain for any interested parties that this experience took place over nine years ago. However, I’ve seen Matthew’s through several price increases, the loss of the included salad, and the switch to a choice of vegetable OR starch. The bread—which is fresh baked and served with herb-infused extra virgin (that I failed to carry on about above)—is still a freebie. None the less, the value continues to out compete many of the chains that locals frequent in Erie and every other town, not to mention the handful of other upscale eatieries in the city. I don’t recall ever having had a meal that disappointed me, and the service and atmosphere is yet to be matched by anyone nearby. I do have a few other favorites I like to frequent in Erie, and I look forward to reviewing them soon. But if you’re from out of town, or even a local looking for something different, Matthew’s Trattoria is the place to be.

Veal Marsala

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I really enjoyed the one review you did. I’d love to read more about what’s happening food-wise in PA. :)

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