Owner Brings Cantina To Fenwick

T.K. Dickerson

Staff Writer

East Coast culture pervades everything from what we wear right down to what we
eat. But when West Coast spice and Mexican flavor mixes with East Coast
seafood, the result is an irresistible and delicious fusion that everyone is
guaranteed to enjoy, no matter where you call home.

Matteo’s Salsa Loco in
Fenwick Island, Del. is the epitome of Mexican food with a beach influence. The
menu describes the cuisine as “a tasty fusion of fresh seafood and tradition
Mexican fare with a California flair”.

Owner Matt “Matteo”
Griffin, a California native, brought fresh and flavorful Mexican cuisine with
him when he moved to the east side of the country around 20 years ago.

When he moved across
country, Griffin didn’t forget the lessons he learned in cooking and sauce
preparation from growing up in his father’s restaurant and working in five-star
restaurants in California. The California and Mexican style that he acquired,
which is as much about capturing the culture as it is the flavor, translates to
his restaurant’s homemade sauces and food.

Growing up an hour from
Mexico as well as living in Mexico gave Griffin “time to experience [the
culture and the cooking]”. He learned from the locals and used those lessons to
build up his menu at Matteo’s Salsa Loco.

Before the previous
location in Fenwick, Griffin also had Mexican restaurants in Ocean City and

To construct his menu,
Griffin starts with the foundations of authentic Mexican food and then builds
up from there.

“I didn’t invent the
burrito,” said Griffin, “but I make the best one.”

His secret is also his
passion: incorporating fresh seafood in to basic, flavor-packed Mexican dishes.
Griffin is the executive chef as well as the owner of Matteo’s and thus created
all of the dishes on the menu.

Customer favorites
include seafood fajitas, dozens of which sell nearly every night, as well as
fish tacos. The menu also offers typical Mexican favorites, such as the “Mondo
Burrito” and carne asada.

The fresh, local seafood
and all hand-made ingredients sets Matteo’s apart, but a factor that makes it
stand out even further is the hand-made and bottled hot sauces and salsas that
Griffin makes himself.

Hot sauces, such as the
“Red Headed Step Sauce” and “Rear Trauma” and salsas like the “Crab Salsa”, are
all available for sale at the restaurant. All of the sauces are made with
fresh, high quality ingredients. “[My sauces] are not so much hot but
flavorful,” says Griffin. “It’s edible hot sauce”.

It is undeniable that
the cuisine at Matteo’s Salsa Loco is unique and savory. But Griffin is trying
to use the new Fenwick location to emphasize an overlooked high point of the
restaurant – the bar.

The restaurant is open
year-round, and Griffin’s goal for the bar “is to create a locals’ hangout”.

With live entertainment,
nightly specials and daily happy hour from 2-5 p.m. (11 a.m-5 p.m. during the
week), he is well on his way to creating a successful bar.

While he is trying to
gain local notice, Matteo’s has already been recognized by a national source.
On topmargaritas.com, the restaurant’s tres-arita, a top shelf margarita with
top shelf floaters, is ranked number two in the country. “They fly out of
here,” Griffin laughs.

In the off-season, Griffin
plans to offer tequila-tasting dinners, an event that was hugely popular at the
restaurant’s previous location in Bethany. His goal is to “educate the public
on the flavors of tequila” by pairing one of the restaurants flavored tequilas
(more than 50 tequilas are stocked) with different courses.

Whether it is a passion
for fine liquor or exquisite food, Griffin brings his love of home cooking and
culture to the East Coast.

“My passion for food and
background in the West Coast shows in [my cuisine],” he said.