By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Nov 04, 2015 at 3:11 PM

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

I learned about Matteo’s Italian Ristorante, 1608 E. Sunset Drive in Waukesha, while paging through my Entertainment Book. I still buy those books, even though I find myself forgetting that I own one until two months before it expires, every year.

One Sunday evening, upon entering Matteo’s, I noticed framed newspaper clippings sharing stories about the restaurants history and success. Behind the host’s counter are chalkboards with soups and specials for the day, posted on a partial wall that divides the counter from the bar.

The dining room was buzzing, and the servers were hustling. The Packers were on a bye week. It was much quieter this past Sunday, but business still seemed steady with dining and carry-out orders.

One of the tenured staff members, Melissa, took a few minutes to talk to me about the history of Matteo’s, which initially opened as Mateo’s with only one "T" back in 1984 but has been at its current location since roughly 1994. She believes it may have been named for an uncle of the original, and current, owner Thomas Thurner.

The restaurant has a warm supper club feel to it, with a full bar, multiple dining rooms, warm colors and plenty of wood work.

The menu includes soups, salads, panini, calzones, appetizers, pastas, pizzas, seafood and other entrees such as Sicilian steak, tenderloin and barbecue ribs. Matteo’s also features a children’s menu with pastas, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, and a burger and fries.

If you’re looking for an easy family dinner option for your home, stop by and pick up "take and bake" pans of lasagna, manicotti, shells florentine, spaghetti and mostaccioli, each including three loaves of bread.

Nightly specials feature garlic chicken and penne on Mondays, $3 off large pizzas on Tuesdays, a Friday fish fry, and shrimp scampi – along with $3.50 Bloody Marys – on Sunday.

Pizza sizes include 8, 13, and 16 inches, ranging from $7.75 to $14.25 for a cheese pizza. Additional toppings cost 75 cents each for the 8-inch pizza up to $1.50 each for the 16-inch pizza. Pizza crusts are served as thin crust, but thick crust is available for the price of a topping.

Gluten free diners will be pleased to know that Matteo’s also offers a 10-inch gluten free crust for the price of a 13 inch pizza.

Specialty pizzas range in price from $9.25 up to $20.25 and include a pesto special and Tommasso’s special. Pesto sauce takes the place of the tomato based sauce on one, and the other uses a garlic butter sauce in place of the tomato based sauce.

Matteo’s makes the pizza dough daily. The sauce starts with a canned base, as do most others, with their own seasoning blend added, giving the sauce slightly spicy undertones.

After exploring the menu, I thought a pesto special with chicken and mushrooms would be a good way to contrast the sausage and pepperoni pie. I meant to ask for thick crust on the pesto special, but I forgot. Sorry to the thick crust fans out there, but at least you know it’s an option.

The pizza includes the diner’s choice of two toppings. I was pleased with the tender pieces of diced chicken breast and fresh mushrooms that were served on mine. The pesto sauce wasn’t over powering, and I thought flavors were all balanced. They also serve the pesto special and Tommasso’s special with a side of house marinara sauce. So I added it to a few bites for an additional layer of flavor, and it was delightful! This is my 90th pizza blog, and I’m not sure I can remember another restaurant or pizzeria (that wasn’t named Toppers) that served dipping sauce with their pizza.

The crust was golden brown and crispy around the perimeter, but flopped a bit toward the center. Since this was an 8-inch pizza, it was cut into four pie slices as opposed to being cut into rectangular slices. I found the crust just a hair on the dense side, but I could see the layers of crust separate when I looked at the slice from the side, and I thought the texture overall was still light enough for me. I liked this pizza with the toppings I chose and would be willing to order it again.

I ordered the sausage and pepperoni pizza on a 13-inch crust so I would have plenty of leftovers. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love eating pizza for breakfast … and lunch … and dinner … and snacks in between. If you put the pizza in a skillet on the stove, you can get a crisp crust when you reheat it instead of the rubbery texture that the microwave causes. Be careful not to let the crust burn, or you may as well toss the pizza out.

This pie was cut into rectangles, and the crust was charred around the edge with a nice a cracker crunch to it. The pizza was pretty greasy, so the center slices weren’t as crisp, but I didn’t care. I just asked for more napkins and went back to work.

The pepperoni and sausage had good flavor and were slightly spicy. The sausage, made for Matteo’s by a local butcher, was tender and delicious. I actually prefer even more heat with pepperoni and sausage, but these complemented the sauce and cheese well.

I did get the sauce on the sides of my mouth after biting into each slice, so Matteo’s passed my test for sauce application. Overall, it was another decent pie.

I have only found a few pizzas in Waukesha that I like, but I plan to keep exploring, and I will keep Matteo’s on my short list for pizza in the area that I would eat again. If you have any recommendations for pizza in Waukesha that I haven’t already blogged about, feel free to send them my way. Again, I’m looking for Waukesha pizza, and I already know about Jimmy’s Grotto and Michael’s. What else have you got for me, Waukesha?

Rick Rodriguez Special to
I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and I plan to stay in Milwaukee forever. I'm the oldest of three children and grew up in the Riverwest neighborhood. My family still lives in the same Riverwest house since 1971.

I graduated from Rufus King High School and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a business degree.

My true passion for Milwaukee probably started after I joined the Young Professionals of Milwaukee (now called FUEL Milwaukee) which just celebrated its one year anniversary at the time. The events that I attended, and sometimes organized, really opened my eyes to what Milwaukee had to offer, as well as its potential for the future. So for the past, present, and future FUEL Milwaukee corporate sponsors out there, that organization does produce results (editorial)!

I love all of the Milwaukee Sports teams, professional and amateur. I love the Milwaukee arts scene and all of the festivals. I love that you can find a free concert in the summer just about every day of the week. I love the various neighborhoods around the Milwaukee area and the unique characteristics that they offer. I love the people who take the time to tell us about those unique characteristics. I have to hold my breath and count to ten when someone tells me that there is nothing to do in Milwaukee. Then I prove them wrong.

Most of all, I love the Milwaukee dining scene. I love how it continues to evolve with modern dishes and new trends while the classic restaurants continue to remind us that great food doesn't have to be "fancy schmancy." However, I also love the chefs that create the "fancy schmancy" dishes and continue to challenge themselves and Milwaukee diners with dishes we've never seen before.

Our media provides attention to the new restaurants, which is great, but I don't like seeing the older great restaurants close their doors (Don Quijote, African Hut) because they've been forgotten, so I try to do my part to let Milwaukeeans know that they're still out there, too. I do that through social media, online reviews, and a dinner club I run for my friends, where we visit restaurants they haven't heard of before or try ethnic cuisine they haven't had before.

My dream is that one day I can mention a great experience in Milwaukee and not have someone respond with "have you been to Chicago?" I don't like those people very much.