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Round of golf leads lifelong friends into restaurant business (9 photos)

Matti's Family Restaurant serves up all-day breakfast, homemade meals

A chance meeting during a round of golf sent a pair of lifelong friends down a new career path as restaurateurs.

Matti Legault and Kevin Nadeau have owned Matti’s Family restaurant for about four years. An iconic eatery for Timmins residents and visitors, the restaurant is located at the Esso Truck Stop on the western outskirts of the city along Riverside Drive.

Legault is an artist. He is also a painter, plasterer and bartender. Nadeau said he was “an investment guy.”

That all changed following a round of golf.

“The opportunity came from the sky,” Legault said. “He (Kevin) was golfing with the people who own the building. The previous people who had run the restaurant left.”

“He mentioned how much sales they had been doing,” Nadeau noted. “I said, ‘I’d do it.’ He said ‘What? If you want to have a meeting, we can go over the numbers on Monday.’

“I did. Then I called (Matti) and asked if he wanted to be my partner. He said yeah and here we are.

“We called it Matti’s because it has a much better ring to it than Kevin’s.”

The long-time truck stop still serves all-day breakfast. It offers home-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner that keep its many regulars coming back.

The dynamic diner duo had never been in the restaurant biz before. But they were confident that they could make it work.

“We came in and said we weren’t going to change anything,” Legault said. “The first day, we come in. And I guess they had been ordering frozen home fries. We noticed when people were getting up and leaving, all that was left on their plates was home fries.

“So, I said we should go with fresh potatoes, but we didn’t have the machine that cuts them. We didn’t get the machine for six weeks and I had to hand-cut 200 pounds of potatoes … it would take like five hours each day.”

The home fries were no longer left on the plate.

Each friend has favourite items on Matti’s menu.

“The house muffin,” Nadeau said. “You cut an English muffin in half, toast it and you have two open ends. It’s with ham, eggs and cheese.”

“The eggs are over easy,” Legault said. “When you cut into it, the yolk goes all over.”

“It’s just delicious,” Nadeau added.

Legault’s favourite is a pasta recipe he developed.

“For me, it’s the spaghetti sauce and meatballs,” he said. “It’s my spaghetti recipe and my meatball recipe. I’m pretty proud of it.”

“It’s his recipe,” Nadeau noted. “It does pretty well.”

The business venture has gone well for the pair, but it has not been without its challenges.

First, there was construction on the highway that slowed traffic flow.

“They were working in front of Walmart for like six months or something,” Nadeau said. “It was just insane.”

“At lunchtime, there would be a lineup from Walmart to East Side’s,” Legault said. “People with half an hour for lunch got stuck in that traffic once, then didn’t come back (at lunch during construction).

“That’s our bread and butter at lunchtime.”

Then the pandemic hit, forcing shutdowns and serving limits.

“During COVID, we renovated and decorated,” Nadeau said. “He did all the art on the walls, and the mural.”

Friendship has been a big part of the success at Matti’s Family Restaurant.

“We’ve been best friends our whole lives,” Nadeau said. “We were born nine months apart. There’s a picture of us as babies on the wall.”

“Our parents lived in the same duplex,” Legault said. “We’ve always been on the same team.”

“We heard from everyone, ‘don’t go into business with your best friend. It’ll be a nightmare, blah, blah, blah,’” Nadeau said. “I’m in business with someone I know I can trust.”

Both enjoy being in the restaurant business.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Legault said. “Sometimes it can seem like a three-ring circus. But when it is good, it’s really good. We’re doing OK. We’re still here after four years.

“We came into a lucky spot. It’s been open 29 or 30 years, something like that.”

Both are appreciative of not only the support they receive from customers but for the chance to take over the restaurant.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity that Melanie Verreault and Mark Verreault, the siblings who own the entire property, gave us,” Nadeau said. “One random round of golf with a stranger (Mark) turned into a new career.”

Matti’s Family Restaurant is located at 2154 Riverside Drive in Timmins, at the Esso Truck Stop. It is open Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are also on Facebook.