Chef Matthew Holeman fires up dinner at Matthew’s Ristorante in Dayton.  ##Photo by Marcus Larson
Michelle and Matthew Holeman. ##Photo by Marcus Larson

Unexpectedly Italian

Matthew’s a delicious Dayton addition

By Valerie Estelle Rogers

Dayton, a town of 2,700 residents located a short seven miles from McMinnville, definitely has its charms. A picturesque park in the heart of downtown appears movie-set-complete with a gazebo perfectly placed in the center. Surrounding the square, buildings reflect a glimpse of the past and present, too, with new life bustling in one particular storefront, 306 Ferry Street. The old building has seen its fair share of dining efforts. The latest, Matthew’s Ristorante, promises a new experience in the old wine country town.

Enter Matt and Michelle Holeman. The couple recently purchased the former Mamma Italia Ristorante, transforming it into their own, and named for the chef.

The support they’ve experienced since its soft-opening in January 2021 exceeded expectations. They say it’s been surprisingly easy making friends with other business owners nearby. At the beginning, every few days, a different person from the neighborhood would drop by to check and cheer on the new members of the small but growing culinary community, which includes The Joel Palmer House, Juanita’s Cafe y Nieveria and Lone Star BBQ.

Matt Holeman is no stranger to the kitchen. After graduating from the Western Culinary Institute, he quickly found a home at Hall Street Grill in Beaverton, where he worked for just under a decade. Most recently, he spent seven years at Jory inside The Allison Inn and Spa, where he was executive sous chef at the award-winning Newberg restaurant.

At Jory, customers have the option to dine at the kitchen counter, allowing guests an opportunity to visit with the chefs while they work. While there, Holeman was known for his joyful conversations, engaging diners and making customers feel as if they were sitting at a table in his home. He ended his tenure at Jory, parting ways during the quiet months of the pandemic to pursue his own restaurant dream with his wife.

They just didn’t know it was going to be Italian.

Marco Baldieri, owner of the former Mamma Italia in Dayton, was devastated during the 2020 shutdowns. Also proprietor of Marco Ristorante Italiano in Salem, he was balancing too much on his plate and needed to lessen the load. After only a few conversations with Baldieri, the Holemans took over Mamma Italia. It was a turn-key opportunity and a dream realized, not to mention, Dayton kept its Italian restaurant. After much discussion, Matt and Michelle decided to maintain the Italian focus while adding their own fresh Northwest touches.

The Holemans say they cannot express enough gratitude toward Baldieri for his assistance with the transition. He took the time to help them with paperwork and offer overall support through the process. This level of mentorship was important to Baldieri as someone did the same for him when he opened his first business.

As if opening a restaurant weren’t stressful enough, Matt and Michelle added a wedding to the mix. After rescheduling and relocating the ceremony several times due to the pandemic, the couple tied the knot in September, surrounded by a small number of family members and friends.

They two met while working at Jory — he in the kitchen, she waiting tables. Now, she sells real estate, but at night, she’s a passionate restaurateur alongside her husband.

When asked about her favorite dish on the new restaurant’s menu, Michelle replied, “Chicken Piccata,” one of his favorites to make.

Matthew’s Ristorante features Italian staples such as eggplant Parmigiana, linguine pescatore, cannelloni, pasta dishes and the ever-popular tiramisu for dessert, to name a few. An Italian Sunday brunch will soon be revealed. The space offers an upscale yet approachable atmosphere.

“We want everyone to feel at home here, to feel comfortable, while still offering high-quality dishes for discerning diners,” Matt said. “We want to be your extended family.” 


Italian in Wine Country 

Be sure to ask for an Oregon-made wine con la tua cena.

Beppe & Gianni’s Trattoria

1646 E. 19th Ave., Eugene • 541-683-6661

Cucina Biazzi

568 E. Main St., Ashland • 541-488-3739

DaVinci Ristorante & Wine Bar

180 High St. S.E., Salem • 503-399-1413

Marco Ristorante Italiano

195 High St., N.E., Salem • 503-391-2201

Matthew’s Ristorante

306 Ferry St., Dayton • 503-864-4100

Nick’s Italian Café

521 N.E. Third St., McMinnville • 503-434-4471

Nicoletta’s Table

333 S. State St., Unit M, Lake Oswego • 503-699-2927

Placido’s Pasta Shop

120 Shelton McMurphey Blvd., No. 110, Eugene • 458-205-8092

Pomodori Osteria & Bar

410 E. Main St., Medford • 541-779-4162

Riccardo’s Ristorante

16035 Boones Ferry Rd., Lake Oswego • 503-636-4104


315 Oak Street, Hood River • 541-436-4444

Rosmarino Osteria Italiana

714 E. First St., Newberg • 503-438-6211

Vinny’s Paisans

970 N. Phoenix Rd., No. 104, Medford • 541-772-3668


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