23-03-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo
In the gardens of the green Karen, time seems to stand still at the time when mansions housed riding stables, coffee plantations and explosions of tropical flowers. Where people ate or took tea in the shade of centuries-old plants. Today, some of these residences, which were once East African colonies, have maintained their charm intact but at the same time have grown together with Kenya's awareness of being a free country where the emerging local classes are happy to frequent places created, managed and frequented until a few years ago only by whites.
One of the most emblematic and surprising cases is the Italian restaurant Matteo's.
It stands on a marvelous property, which until a few years ago housed a stable of horses and green lawns studded with plants in which were immersed cottages magically lost in another era. Owners of this enchanting place are a couple of Italians in Kenya since 1975, Pino Checchini and Leonarda Langiano, who decided a few years ago to transform stables and barns into a kitchen, rustic rooms, bar and a patio of a real country club, combining the beauty of the place with the elegance of a sober and stylish furniture, a service with attention to detail and especially the tradition of Italian cuisine treated with an international breath but without losing its characteristics.
At Matteo's, since noon there is no respite, it is a continuous coming and going of customers, especially Kenyans but also English and Italian residents and not only Karen. In the evening the atmosphere is tinged with romance, with perfect lighting and an unspoken but shared pleasure in not spoiling special moments, between soft music and murmurs of couples or laughter that is never outrageous in company, clinking glasses and eloquent verses of approval for good food.
If pizza is the queen of many tables, Matteo's has several specialties on the menu that draw from Italian eating but also from the territory.
"Our pizza tries to be the perfect balance between Neapolitan softness, with a slightly raised edge, and subtle Roman fragrance," explains manager Mario Ciampi, an old acquaintance of Italian eateries in Watamu and especially of Come Back, which under his leadership went from being a simple nightclub to a refined and precisely international restaurant.
"Our philosophy is to meet the customers of today's Nairobi, proposing Italian dishes that are able to conquer the palate of Kenyans as well, without distorting them but completing them with quality local products and the multi-ethnic style of a metropolis - adds Ciampi - doing all this in a unique and spectacular place, where relaxation is combined with the pleasure of being together".
Pino Checchini had already embarked on this path years ago, bringing pizza and other Italian specialties to Naivasha and winning over the residents. The original Matteo's by the lake always works well, the one in Nairobi is a jewel that is definitely worth a visit.
How do you eat? You can see it in Freddie and Leni's feature below! (IN ITALIAN, USE YOUTUBE TRANSLATOR)
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