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Orange County Focus

CORONA DEL MAR : Matteo's Restaurant Closes After 23 Years

September 09, 1993|BOB ELSTON

The corner booth at Matteo's Italian Restaurant still looks pretty much the way it did when famed actor John Wayne and his friends used to sit there playing backgammon Wednesday nights.

The table is still set with silverware and maroon napkins, the wineglasses in place. The only difference is that its lamp is unplugged and paintings have been stripped off the wall behind the booth.

"I will miss the restaurant and all my customers who used to come in to eat," said Wanda A. Jordan, the restaurant's owner, who closed it down last week after 23 years in business.

While Wayne was gaming, Henry Kissinger and his contingent of U.S. Secret Service men used to stop in occasionally for a bite on their way down to San Clemente, where then-President Richard Nixon lived.

"It was a Corona del Mar landmark," said Jordan, who opened Matteo's on Dec. 17, 1970. The restaurant was in the same building on East Coast Highway near MacArthur Boulevard that had housed Wayne's Talk of the Town restaurant several years earlier.

The 85-person capacity restaurant won a slew of awards for its Italian cuisine--namely its veal and spaghetti dishes--during the 1980s. But in the past couple of years, expenses far outstripped revenues, forcing Jordan to close it before she ran out of money.

"People just weren't spending money anymore," she said. Her ex-husband, Matthew Jordan, still operates a Matteo's Italian Restaurant in Westwood.

So during the Labor Day weekend, the restaurateur set about dismantling the decor of the upscale restaurant, donating leftover food to charity and selling the artwork that had hung on the walls for years.

"I ran it as long as I could," she said. "I just couldn't close the doors. My heart is here."

She has put the establishment up for sale or lease.

Without the eatery, Jordan, 70, is not sure what to do.

"Now I have got nothing but the memories," she said sadly.

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