Expertly opening a wine bottle as she converses with her staff in Spanish, it seems unlikely that just five months ago the owner of Caffe Machiavello, Maria Neal, had undergone a life-saving kidney surgery. But it was this health scare that encouraged Neal to spend more time with her family and pursue her passion of opening the cafe.
At the intersection of Park Boulevard and Page Mill Road, Caffe Machiavello anchores a new neighborhood in a previously industrial part of Palo Alto. Most surrounding buildings are office buildings, which contributes to the lunch rush this cafe satisfies with tasty international cuisine from calamari to quinoa.
“Nowadays, everybody’s trying to separate us as different cultures and different backgrounds. I decided to … literally create a melting pot … just celebrating diversity,” Neal says. Despite the foreign dishes that the restaurant serves, Neal wants to make sure that the foods are still easy to understand for everyone. She hopes everyone will be able to find something to eat at the cafe.
Everything is made from scratch with simple, safe ingredients. Neal designed her menu so that everyone could find something to eat, no matter their dietary preference or restriction, as she experienced severe restrictions on her diet just after surgery.
Running the restaurant is a family affair, as Neal’s husband and all four children help her carry out her dream. Neal’s eldest son works in the kitchen after school, and her husband cooks, works the cash register and plays music on the patio. Neal herself works in the restaurant nearly everyday in all areas of the cafe except the kitchen.
“I’m a little bit shy about it,” Neal says. “I like to eat, but I don’t really know how to cook.”
Nevertheless, Neal makes sure to carefully cater to the needs of any customer that enters through her restaurant doors.
“Macchiavello is my family last name,” Neal says. “I want people to feel at home and like family, as soon as they walk in here. They belong to my family.”
Pizza Margherita: $11.95
All of Caffe Machiavello’s pizzas use handmade pinsa dough made with flour imported from Italy. Seven different savory pizzas are served, along with the sweet Nutella pizza. The classic margherita pizza is topped with tomato sauce, parmigiana-reggiano, mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. The blend of cheese has a strong flavor, which pairs well with the slightly bitter dough.
Lomo Saltado: $18.95
The lomo saltado, touted as Caffe Machiavello’s unique Peruvian dish, is presented with a side of white rice and potato wedges. The sirloin steak is freshly made and chewy with a hefty sprinkling of salt within it. While the taste of salt was at times overpowering, the dish is an adventure for the taste buds, as the steak and rice blend together to fill the mouth with warm, buttery goodness.