Just after Christmas, three business partners who hail from the same coastal region in Southern Italy will open the doors to their new Los Altos restaurant, Tre Monti, with a grand event featuring a full buffet.
A small group including the owners, a server, family friends and a Town Crier reporter gathered Nov. 27 to share a pre-opening meal at Tre Monti, located at 270 Main. St., former home to Miyo Yogurt.
The group sat in total silence – not awkward, to be sure – as they scooped every last bite of the made-from-scratch penne pasta off the eatery’s brand-new plates.
“Our first tradition is to make people feel like they are at home,” owner and chef Mattia Galiano said as he poured an Italian mousse coffee.
Galiano and his partners Mario Nucci and Giovanni Messina searched three years for the perfect location for their Italian restaurant. According to Galiano, the Bay Area is in desperate need of authentic Italian cooking, especially from someone who prioritizes the customer’s palate over the profits a chain could bring.
“It makes me feel like I am at home,” he said of discovering Los Altos. “My hometown of Scalea has a population of only 10,000. You can meet a lot of people in a little town. You always have nice people around you.”
It took a year to remodel the Tre Monti space into what it is now – one big room with sleek gray flooring and approximately 20 brown tables with large wine glasses serving as centerpieces. Pops of color illuminate the pale yellow walls, such as a picture of Galiano with his grandmother. She taught him how to cook and sent him on a transatlantic journey that landed him in Los Altos 15 years later.
Messina is also in action now that the restaurant has taken shape, whizzing around the establishment reciting details about Tre Monti’s house wine, set to be made by Larson Family Winery in Sonoma. He has 30 years of restaurant experience.
Nucci, who exhales a laugh from deep in his stomach when he calls himself “Mario the Italian handyman,” is new to this business. He calls the experience his “dream come true.” He can tell his Italian friends in San Carlos, Burlingame and San Francisco, who opened their own restaurants before him, the good news.
“(Galiano) followed me (during construction), and now I’m going to follow him around the kitchen,” Nucci joked.
Passion on the plate
All three men are excited to open a small eatery where they can put their passion into each plate. It’s important to use the freshest ingredients, even if they are the most expensive, to maintain the integrity of recipes passed down for generations through their families, Galiano explained. Finding local crops also matters. That’s why the menu is subject to change.
Galiano calls his cooking “modern traditional.” Many of the same plates that Italian families have shared for decades will rotate on and off the menu, including Galiano’s Neapolitan pizza, which he makes just like his Naples-based family members did, with his personal twist.
Once Tre Monti is stabilized, the partners hope to expand their services in Los Altos through ventures such as catering, hands-on school workshops (“The kids can run their hands through and play with pizza dough as they become interested in food,” Galiano envisions) and possibly even another eatery.
“Not today, but someday,” Nucci said.
That dream may be a while out, but in the short term, Galiano is working on getting Tre Monti listed on popular food delivery apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats.
“We want to do great things for this town,” Galiano said. “We will do our best to make everybody happy. We hope we are doing enough for the town.”
Coast to coast
Galiano has come a long way from when he arrived in California five years ago, urged to make the move from Italy by friends he met when they were tourists in his hometown.
He graduated from an Italian cooking school at 18, traveling among cultural and culinary hot spots such as Milan and Rome to learn his trade under the tutelage of world-renowned chefs. He knew no English, however, and traveled to Half Moon Bay with the hope that the surrogate family of Italian immigrants who had settled would take him in.
“It was hard in the beginning,” he said. “I came into the Italian restaurant in a hotel and managed 200 people. At first, when I asked if they needed a chef, I was asked, ‘You? You’re just 22. How will you cover my kitchen?’”
Just as Galiano relied on the network of Italians in the South Bay to give him his first break, the three owners are relying on the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce to help them organize their grand opening.
For more information on Tre Monti’s official opening, visit facebook.com/ristorantetipico.