CHEF IGNACIO MATTOS TALKS DOWNTOWN FAVORITES, GUILTY-PLEASURE FOODS, AND MORE
A lot has been written about Ignacio Mattos over the past few years. And with good reason. The Uruguayan-born, New York-based chef and restaurateur has more than proven his standing as a mainstay of New York’s ever-changing culinary scene. A quick Google search will turn up multitudes of articles singing Mattos’s praises for his “honest food,” “originality,” and “precise technical execution.” Yet despite the hype surrounding both his deceptively simple food and the buzzy-yet-relaxed dining environments he has cultivated together with restaurateur Thomas Carter, the award-winning chef has far from lost his appreciation for the simple pleasures in life.
Here, Mattos talks to GrandLife about some of his favorite downtown spots for a casual night out, the merits of the humble French fry, the formula for a memorable dining experience, and more.
What makes a memorable dining experience for you?
Ignacio Mattos: It’s a combination of things. The right company in a casual, delicious spot always makes for an interesting and fun experience. Also, a gracious and engaged staff makes for a great night. When you have that, you don’t need to be dining with anyone.
Is there something you’ve tasted recently that really blew your mind?
IM: I had a pretty delicious chocolate dessert at Ko. I’m not usually a chocolate guy, but it was surprisingly comforting and refreshing.
What are some of your favorite downtown spots to go for a casual night out? What do you like about them, and what do you order?
IM: Hasaki, because I like that it’s a New York institution. I go for the omakase and the grilled banana with ice cream.
Los Tacos Numeros Uno in Chelsea Market, because it feels as genuine as it could be. I get the tacos adobada.
Superiority Burger, because you can just pop in and get a delicious combination of well-crafted ice cream in a very casual environment.
Ops pizza in Bushwick, because we all love pizza!
Abraço is a good neighborhood coffee shop with quite delicious baked goods and sandwiches.
Do you have a guilty-pleasure food? If so, what is it, and where do you get your fix?
IM: French fries. Luckily enough, I have two restaurants where I can go eat them whenever I want. The Café Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar fries are quite different, but both are delicious. Otherwise, my go-to is Shake Shack.
Any secret NYC menu items you can let us in on?
IM: The Bistecca Fiorentina at my own Café Altro Paradiso. Very few people know about it, and it’s incredibly delicious.
In your opinion, which NYC restaurant has the best people-watching?
IM: Balthazar, where everyone people-watches and at the same time minds their own business.
If you could sit down to a meal with one person, who would it be, and where would you take them?
IM: Louise Bourgeois, and I would take her to Prime Meats to eat the hot dog.
Words Edwina Hagon
Photography Marcus Nilsson