Onscreen or in the kitchen, Matty Matheson has a big personality. He also has a big list of titles, from renowned chef (his most recent opening, Rizzo’s House of Parm, is featured on the 2023 Canada’s Best New Restaurants list) to New York Times bestselling cookbook author and YouTube star (over 1.3 million subscribers watch him whip up comfort food recipes like Cheeseburger Soup). He also co–owns Blue Goose Farm, Rosa Rugosa apparel and Matheson Cookware. In 2022, Matheson added television actor to his bio when he took on the role of Neil Fak in The Bear, a hit show he also co–produces that recently won three Golden Globes and six Emmys for its gritty portrayal of restaurant life in Chicago. We caught up with the Maritime–born, Ontario–raised star to chat about his dream Winnebago road trip, favourite spots for lobster in PEI, and what inspires his restaurants.
enRoute What’s your favourite Toronto restaurant right now?
Matty Matheson Yummy Yummy Dumplings. They have good dumplings and good beef rolls – everything there is good, you know? I also really like King’s Noodle.
ER How often do you travel?
MM Oh my god. Every three to four days, I’d say. We have three kids under eight years old, so my wife, Trish, doesn’t want to hang out with me when I’m working, but we do family vacations and then little “mom and dad” vacations. I was in Nashville for a week shooting my YouTube series and then it was Trish’s birthday, so we met up in L.A. to spend a couple days there.
ER What’s your most memorable family vacation?
MM We always go to Prince Edward Island. I have some family out there and it’s kind of my special place – one of my favourite places in Canada, actually – because that’s where I went as a kid. My grandfather had a restaurant there. I’m not a nostalgic person, but that place makes me nostalgic. I love sharing it with my kids and being able to show them what I used to do when I was a kid there, like going to the same beaches to dig for mussels. We usually rent a house on the water somewhere, and we always stay in different places. We’ve been on different sides of the island and we’re still deciding which one we love the most.
ER What are some of your go–to spots in PEI?
MM I like Richard’s. They have an incredible lobster roll and seafood. New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is also one of my favourite places. I still get ice cream at Cows Creamery – the kids and I love it. And then we always end up going to Brackley Beach.
ER Your most recent restaurant was built on the spot of an old diner in your hometown of Fort Erie. What inspired Rizzo’s House of Parm?
MM Trish is Italian, and we still go to her parents’ house every Sunday for dinner when I’m in town, so Rizzo’s is kind of an ode to that. We’ve been together since high school, so it started then, and I remember being like: This is so crazy. You guys are having chicken cutlets, meatballs and spaghetti with tomato sauce, and there’s this big, beautiful salad and cheese and bread on the table. When I would have supper, it was like one plate of food, you know? Both my parents are from the Maritimes, so I grew up eating clam chowder and meatloaf. Anyway, I think most people probably don’t love their in–laws, but I do, so Rizzo’s is kind of a love letter to Trish’s family. It’s a real family restaurant, and there’s nothing pretentious about it.
ER Do your in–laws eat at Rizzo’s?
MM They are there about once a week. We even celebrated Trish’s sister’s birthday in the restaurant’s private basement dining room. My father–in–law thinks the fried calamari is the greatest thing ever.
ER What’s your go–to on the menu?
MM Every time I go, I get something different. I’ll get a carbonara or a bolognese one day, then just a plate of grilled sausages with rapini the next. A lot of people love the chicken parm. It's a warm, cheesy dish, and it's powerful.
ER You have a handful of popular restaurants. Is there a formula for restaurant success?
MM Now more than ever, I try to make food that I think people will truly love. I like the idea of making basic food to the best of our abilities, and all my restaurants have concepts that let me stay true to myself. Matty’s Patty’s started from a pop–up in Hawaii where we gave away free cheeseburgers to kids. Cà Phê Rang is about my longtime friend, chef Rang Nguyen, and his love for banh mi and pho. Prime Seafood Palace has always been my dream restaurant. Rizzo’s is about my love for my wife and my family – the restaurant is named after our first daughter, Rizzo. All these restaurants mean something to me on a very personal level. So, my formula is: Don’t be arbitrary about what you do. Have a North Star and do everything with purpose.
ER What is your dream destination?
MM I’d like to take my whole family to Hawaii. They’re obsessed with the idea. My son, Mac, really wants to see sharks and go where they shot Jurassic Park. And all my kids love swimming and being in the ocean. I also want to book a month off, rent a Winnebago and drive across the United States with the kids. My buddy did it and said it was so freeing to be nomadic and stay somewhere for a couple days and then just drive off.
ER Do you have a favourite food destination abroad?
ER What’s your best travel hack?
MM Travel with nothing. I travel with a tote bag and a change of clothes. I recently went on a trip and wore my swimsuit the whole time. I think the anxiety of being away from home makes people pack so many outfits, but there’s no need to overthink it. Travel light.