Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis

Ponderosa pine interior, menu highlights Old Town opening

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After closing just after New Years and a full-scale remodel nearing completion, chef and Clovis restauranteur Chris Shackelford is ready to reinvent Trelio Restaurant, January 27, 2017.

With a brand new interior of custom designed and manufactured local Ponderosa pine food grade tables, paneling, wine cabinets and bar, Trelio is ready to open their doors and serve a new menu

Opening in 2006 as an upscale, fine dining establishment on Clovis Avenue in Old Town Clovis,  Trelio has evolved from regional american cuisine that not only represents the locally grown and produced bounty  of the San Joaquin Valley, but also the changing food interests of the Fresno area and its owner.

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Trelio sous chef Thomas Stempien, left, and chef Chris Shackelford chat in the kitchen during dinner prep on re-opening night, Jan. 27, 2017.

And, while the central Valley’s dining options continue to expand and contract, often between the whims, perception and the harsh realities of economics, Trelio has been a stabilizing force in the Clovis dining scene even as owner and chef Chris Shackelford adjusted to both his and patrons’ expectations and desires.

“(In the beginning), we slowly migrated from being the ‘French Laundry’ of the central Valley to being more of a farm-to-table restaurant and comprehensive dining option in a European style,” Shackelford said. “That being said, we also enjoy the ties to regional cuisine of America.”

Trelio’s is food and wine centric. Every entrée and small dish they create is from scratch, including baking their own bread. As the restaurant has evolved and grown, owner  and patrons alike place an emphasis on cooking, food and wine pairings.

“There are a lot of correlations between our menu and the wine offerings as well as correlations between the wine list and the food we serve,” Shackelford said. Styles and ingredients may change but our core is European.

“The food is a mix being that I have a French core technique, but we create homemade pasta dishes, seafood, steaks, wild game to tapas dishes that might be found in Barcelona,” Shackelford continued. “Heck, nothing is off-limits. We might even offer a Mexican dish or even offer Armenian or Persian.

And as the San Joaquin Valley has such a diversity of people and culture that have made the area one of the greatest agricultural industries in the world, Trelio has made it a point to be relevant and reflect that diverse cuisine with a distinctly European flair.

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The new Trelio dining room is completely refurbished with Ponderosa pine tables, banquettes, paneling and a new bar milled from Sierra foothills trees above North Fork.

However, Shackelford and the new Trelio is adjusting its focus even as the chef and owner battles complacency in and out of the kitchen. He said he needed to change things up and began to change the menu about a year ago.

“We decided to shift the restaurant in what I believe to be the trending style to smaller plates, less expensive dinners,” he said. “We’ve basically been doing much the same for the last 11 years and decided to shift our focus.”

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Trelio used many of the 70 dead Ponderosa pine trees from Jim Shackelford’s (Chris’ father) property to form the furnishings in the restaurant, including the tables.

When the Shackelford brothers opened the restaurant in 2006, Chris quit his job and jumped in. This time he wanted to be more methodical in his vision for Trelio.

“I’ve been planning (changes) now for about six months with construction going on for about three months (furniture being built, etc.),” he said. “We are losing a few tables as part of a quality issue. We want to be full every night, keep our costs under control (food, staff) and be core, quality oriented.”

While the old Trelio had 12 tables, the 2017 version will only have eight including two sets of banquettes (up to 10 on each side for larger groups). The new menu is designed to be less expensive (up to 50 percent cheaper) and the portions are downsized by 20 percent to allow people to try other courses.

“The goal is to serve customers so they will not be overly full and be able to enjoy multiple dishes over an evening,” Shackelford said. “The menu is expanded, larger than it used to be. These options will be able to be put out (created) at a quicker pace. Simpler styles and more quality oriented dishes.”

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Chef, Sommelier and owner Chris Shackelford has changed the Trelio menu to reflect new techniques, expanded and less expensive offerings.

Besides special events, wine tastings, holiday and winemaker dinners, Trelio is also offering a new take on dinner in the dining room.

“I wanted a way to develop dishes or introduce new techniques to the staff, so three to four times a month, we we do ‘bar dinners,'” Shackelford said. “We only have four-five seats at the bar for longer and specialized wine paired dinners hosted by me, the sommelier and chef.”

He went on to explain that this would be an extended prefix menu, a rare opportunity to experience an artistic version of a dinner that will most often be theme oriented. Examples might be a Cajun dinner during Mardi Gras to a French dinner on Bastille Day.

Those who are interested in a bar dinner will sit with guests at a beautiful 16X4-foot custom made solid natural distressed Ponderosa pine top complete with rustic wood edges cut from father Jim Shackelford’s property in the Sierra foothills above North Fork. He had over 70 dead and/or dying trees and hired The WoodShed of Clovis to mill and manufacture the bar, tables, open wine cabinets and paneling that now graces Trelio’s interior.

The whole interior is custom and brilliant in its natural state of light reddish-brown, grey/blue hues as well as the knotty highlights and nail or insect holes associated with each tree. The Woodshed contractors completed all the fine woodwork in a refurbished Trelio to complement the new grey color scheme.

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Trelio’s menu is expanding and besides offering more dishes, the entreés will cost less and be 20 percent smaller.

While Trelio is already booked through Feb. 4, reservations are already filling up beginning  Feb. 7. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday and guests looking for a relaxed, upscale dining experience that is centered around handcrafted food, an Wine Spectator award-winning wine list and personal service should consider Trelio for dinner.

Upcoming events on Trelio’s calendar include a Winter Wine Tasting, Feb. 4; a special Valentine’s dinner, Feb. 11 & 14; winemaker dinner with David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars, Feb. 23. The dinner at the bar special series begins Feb. 28 for “Fat Tuesday at the Bar.” Please call ahead for availability and reservations.

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Look for Trelio Restaurant near the Clovis Gateway to the Sierras sign on Clovis Avenue.

Reservations are recommended as Trelio will only seat 32-36 patrons per evening. Call (559) 297-0783, visit Trelio Restaurant on the web or use ‘Seat Me’ via Yelp. Trelio has seating times Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Trelio is located at 438 Clovis Ave, Clovis, CA 93612.

Today, Chris Shackelford continues the Trelio Restaurant tradition and acts both as Trelio’s sommelier, chef and owner. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 13 years old under a variety of central coast restaurants and chefs and at Erna’s Elderberry House for nine years before opening Trelio in 2006.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

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Matties Wood-Fired Pizza set to grow business

With a plethora of eating options at local farmer's markets, I decided to try Matties Wood-Fired Pizza. With fresh ingredients, including dough made fresh each day, the thin-crusted pizza's aroma lured me to join the food trailer's queue.
With a plethora of eating options at local farmer’s markets, I decided to try Matties Wood-Fired Pizza. With most ingredients grown locally, including dough made fresh each day, the thin-crusted pizza’s aroma lured me to join the food trailer’s queue.

With farmer’s markets springing up all over Fresno County in recent weeks, I joined the crowds in Old Town Clovis for the weekly summer street market.

While I initially wasn’t planning to eat dinner, my family and I stopped in front of Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven. The smell of freshly baked dough and local ingredients wood-fired in an Italian-made oven stopped me behind a queue of five patrons.

I have often joined the community bandwagon and eaten at local CartHop Fresno events, so pausing to watch my personal-sized, 14-inch, wood-fired pizza bake was a no-brainer. Cost? $6-8.

Owner Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott was kneading dough into thin crusted personal pies. The menu included up to 12 varieties of Neapolitan-inspired pizzas (VIDEO). My first taste of Matties Wood-Fired Pizza was split with my twenty-something daughter, Brittany. We decided to share two pizzas: 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.

Owner Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott left the education field to pursue Italian cooking, dreaming to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven.
Owner/operator Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott left the education field to pursue Italian cooking, dreaming to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven.

The pizzas came out piping hot. The mozzarella bubbled and the bacon’s aroma melded with the smokiness that one only gets when the BBQ cooks with almond and/or fruit wood. The freshly ground pistachio pesto was brilliant on the slightly charred, crispy crust, adding texture to the pizza. The tomatoes? Well, they were fresh, ripe, red, halved and full of flavor.

“We are pushing the pizza envelope,” Wolcott said. “We are pushing the pizza tradition, creating gourmet pizzas on wheels. This is good, clean, simple food. I’m just a simple person, using great flavors. Living in Valley I have access to incredible ingredients and I believe I am making incredible wood-fired pizzas.”

Mattie said his favorite pizza is the Vera. I concur. I’m a caramelized onion fan as well. That may be due to my own extensive time in the kitchen. The pizzas did not last long as we chowed down on the sweet and savory flavors.

Matties is gourmet pizza at its best. I must admit I longed for a glass of Paso’s Tablas Creek Estate Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley’s 2009 Martian Vineyard Grenache Rosé, Villa Creek’s Pink, Caliza Winery’s Pink or other Rosé alternatives.

However, the wine or beer option is only available for those who attend one of Matties weekly private parties. A bottle of iced water filled in just fine this time as June in the Central Valley heats up.

I shared  two pizzas with my daughter 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.
I shared two pizzas with my daughter 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.

After working in the performing arts field for four years, Wolcott (43) taught elementary school for two years before becoming a consultant for a publishing company in the Bay Area. He served as a local rep. selling textbooks and later led a charter school for three years. However, by 2010, he grew dissatisfied with his role in education.

“I really didn’t believe in the way education is mapped out. It was hard to sell something I did not believe in,” Wolcott said. “My passion for education began to wane. I didn’t like the education philosophy.”

However, despite his career choices, he has always had a interest in cooking. In fact, Wolcott used to watch the 1980’s PBS show, Ciao Italia, with Mary Ann Esposito and still follows it when he can.

The wood stone floor is kept at 750 degrees. The beauty of a wood-fired oven at that the temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and the radiated heat cooks the top ingredients quickly.
The wood-fired oven stone floor is kept at 750 degrees. The beauty of a wood-fired oven is that its high temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and radiated heat cooks the top ingredients in about two minutes.

“I’ve stuck with Italian for most of my life and so I felt it was time to strike out on my own, sharing my passion: wood-fired pizzas. I just wanted to cook. So I worked with someone in the Bay Area and began catering for two summers while I still was in education. That became the impetus for me to get a food trailer and begin making pizzas on my own almost three years ago.

“I knew I wanted to use a wood-fired oven, but it is my dream to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven. I turned to the Mugnaini Inc. from Watsonville who have been importing wood-fired ovens from Italy for 20 years.”

Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas start with fresh pizza dough made from scratch using Giustos flour out of South SF because it was recommended by a cooking school in Healdsburg. And while fresh local ingredients most often make a tremendous difference in culinary presentation, Wolcott believes the wood-fired oven changes everything.

“There is an art to it,” he said. “No gas flame here. I wanted to bake pizzas in an old-world style in an oven that will dry the dough quickly and brown evenly. While the pizzas are baking in the oven, they must be rotated to evenly cook. We usually use almond but apple and peach wood is also being used this summer. I love the smell of the wood in each pizza.”

Matties Wood-Fired Pizza can create 12-15 different pizzas and can be found at the local CartHop events, farmer's markets and private parties.
Matties Wood-Fired Pizza can create 12-15 different pizzas and can be found at the local CartHop events, farmer’s markets and private parties.

Mugnaini Inc. Italian wood-fired pizza oven (VIDEO)

The wood-fired oven’s stone floor is kept at 750 degrees and takes about two hours to reach that temperature. The beauty of a wood-fired oven is that its high temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and radiated heat quickly cooks the top ingredients. The average time for a pizza in the oven is about 2-2.5 minutes.

Matties factoid: Mattie Wolcott’s favorite pizza is caramelized onion and blue cheese with thyme. He says it is great with a salad. He also says pizza lovers might try a bubbly Lambrusco Le Grotte white wine on hot summer days.

However, when he was pressed, Wolcott said he was mostly a red wine drinker. His favorite is/was the Jordan Winery ’95 Cabernet. However, he went on to say that he is not a traditionalist to wine choices with food.

Wine pairing anyone?

Currently Wolcott is relying on referrals to build his pizza-loving clientele and has only used one postcard mailing. His team uses a trailer equipped with a Mugnaini Italian oven and an enclosed tent to create the pizzas. His goal is to add a second mobile oven on a 20-foot trailer with a full kitchen. He plans on joining the other food trucks at events, including weekends at Bella Frutta.

Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven is a wonderful food alternative for those stopping for lunch/dinner at local farmer’s markets, a family reunions/gatherings, graduation, weddings, corporate parties/events, bridal rehearsal parties, baby showers and graduation parties. It reminds me of homemade Italian pizza.

Mattie’s has set up for oven-fired pizzas in backyards for small parties to large events at wineries. All they need is about three-four hours of prep. time before each event and an approximate number of guests. Each event may have additional costs, but Wolcott said a flat $350 fee would cover about 25 guests with each additional pizza eater rate at $6-8 for a 2-4 hour event. Matties will serve up to five pizza varieties at an event.

Pizza The sausage pizza has tomatos, Tuscan pork sausage, mixed mushrooms on an alfredo base.
The Alfredo sausage pizza has tomatos, Tuscan pork sausage, mixed mushrooms on an alfredo base.

On a typical day, Matties will wood-fire 100-200 pizzas but will increase those numbers for larger events. They have 12-15 different varieties.

Matties Wood-Fired Pizza Menu:

Monday: Site views/visits to map out area for private parties. Food offerings include but are not limited to wood-fired pizza, salad, dessert (berry crisp) biscotti, pasta bars, dinner party appetizers, roasted egg plant, arugula goat cheese, butternut squash, etc.

Tuesday: River Park Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.

Thursday: CartHop Fresno, Fulton Mall, 11 a.m. – 2 .pm.

Friday: CartHop Fresno, Eaton Plaza, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday: Downtown Clovis Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.

Finally, in an effort to increase business, Matties needs a bigger trailer. He is hoping that through social media, referrals and a Kickstarter account , a new $40,000, 20-foot trailer can be built by the end of 2013. Wolcott said he has already contacted West Coast Trailers in Madera for the specs. on a new trailer.

“I couldn’t have built Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas without the help of an army of people,” Wolcott said. “So many people have come along side of me to encourage and put their time in by volunteering hours upon hours to help me build a viable business. The Valley and Fresno/Clovis have been very good to me; the community has been so supportive.”

So through the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media, referrals and repeat customers, Wolcott is hoping to grow his business just a little more with a Kickstarter account. He said he felt awkward to ask people for money–even weird. However, this is an avenue he felt his supporters might consider. So if you are inclined to foster a home-grown business, #BeABacker: Mattie needs a bigger home.

For more information on Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven, call Matthew Wolcott at 559.917.1969 or email him at mattiesmobileoven.com. He can also be reached through Twitter: @MattiesPizza.

For more information on the Fresno’s food truck growth, including Matties Wood-Fired Pizza, watch the video, CartHop: Moving Food Forward by CreativeFresno559.

Carthop: Moving Food Forward

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Also be sure to read my Feb. 11, 2013, post: Bella Frutta hosts food truck hub each weekend.

NOTE: After struggling through illness during the winter, I am refocused and determined to restart TalesoftheCork on a weekly basis. Thank you for returning and a hearty cheers to you.

READERS: Have you tried the meals on wheels trucks or been to Bella Frutta? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article.

For more TalesoftheCork stories, scroll to the top of the menu bar or read The Grape Tray reopens in Fresno’s Opus I Center .