Philly Sound Studio comanager offers melodic menu

A Girard Estate musician and cook will combine his talents for a Saturday concert.

By Joseph Myers

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Feb. 21, 2013

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Mariano Mattei

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Many people find themselves forced to hold two jobs to sustain their livelihood, but Mariano Mattei pursues a pair of passions to maximize his enjoyment of life. 

The Girard Estate resident will offer samples of his interests Saturday at Philly Sound Studios, 2829 S. 18th St., where his band Real will debut its new lineup and attendees will feast on his culinary creations.

“I enter the same Zen state with music as I do with cooking,” the inhabitant of the 1900 block of Shunk Street said last week from the two-year-old site, for which he serves as comanager, of blending his crafts. “For this show, I’ll continue to try to channel that energy by having us mingle new pieces with old songs and serving dishes straight from my heart.”

The South Philly native has his childhood to thank for his dual obsessions, with a constant aim to preserve that period in his memory leading him to write hot tunes and design warm plates. His musical outfit has experienced a few incarnations since its late-1990s formation and will perform at the Marconi space with two new faces among its four figures. For the 40-something guitarist and vocalist, the evening gig will further his group’s insistence on producing polished pieces that rely heavily on harmony and his promotion of delectable victuals.

“I would classify us as straight-ahead rock musicians, high energy players whose songs, upon first listen, should be something you feel as if you have heard before,” Mattei said, noting their name derives from comments on how authentically they approach their themes, most notably the inescapable duo of love and loss. “I would say the songwriting has matured and that having such a bond among us as friends really furthers our sounds. When people come to our shows, we share bits about our friendships, so they’re living in our sitcom.”

Great companions have helped the principal songwriter to issue five releases, with an emphasis on singles recently replacing attention to constructing full-length albums, but he can credit a couple formative females for his ambition.

“My mother, Rachel, plays accordion, and I can recall doing my math homework to the melody of ‘Hey Jude,’” the alumnus of St. Monica School, 16th and Porter streets, Central High School and Temple University said. “I studied classical guitar and when rock came into my life, I forgot everything else.”

His grandmother, affectionately known as Nonna Gilda, gave him a yearning to master Italian cuisine, and upon the recent receipt of handwritten recipes, he set out to make audiences request second helpings along with encores.

“We actually started lumping music and food together in 2009,” Mattei said of a beef-and-beer fundraiser that helped to cover the costs for that year’s “Welcome Distractions” compact disc. “I loved that people helped us, so we chose to go forward with a plan to offer quality food and a quality show all under one roof. To this day, I feel if you come to see us play, you’d better come hungry.”

For Saturday’s outing, Mattei, who two weeks ago held his annual winter crab fest at his home with help from his wife, Joann, and their three children, will offer his eponymously titled Italian truck-style porchetta, his family’s secret recipe for roast beef and a vegetarian zucchini salad. With plans to issue a cookbook by the end of the year, he is seeing the selections as further proof of his attraction to his kitchen’s call and of his inability to silence it.

“When cooking, it’s almost like a meditative state where nothing can intervene or suppress my energy,” the connoisseur said. “Music, too, draws me in and looks to give me methods for working on myself and connecting with others.” 

The introspective individual, who also has tried solo work, began seeking a new sort of enlightenment in the late 1980s, heading The Edge, a group with similarly lofty aspirations for making meaningful messages. Its dissolution spawned Real, which Mattei describes on the band’s Facebook page as “sautéed in the stellar tradition of melodic pop-rock born in Philadelphia.” For the IBM employee, that classification has computed into constant discussions on direction and determination. 

“In six months of reforming with this lineup, I feel like we’ve really hit a great mix,” Mattei said. “Like a good recipe, it all goes together well and just pops. We’re hoping to land some steady gigs, and though we have no illusions of becoming superstars, we’re putting feelers out to stations to get some exposure.”

Such visibility has come locally through the St. Pio Festival at Annuniciation B.V.M. Parish, 1511 S. 10th St., and time at The Legendary Dobbs, 304 South St., and will gain another boost with June 1’s appearance at the St. Pio Regional Catholic School Festival, 1826 Pollock St. As the comanager of Philly Sound Studios, which has welcomed “American Idol” alumni Kris Allen and Jason Castro and John Waite, who sang the ’84 No. 1 Billboard hit “Missing You,” he feels fortunate to have a plethora of instruments and devices to augment Real’s sound. He also relies on the expertise of colleague Drew Raison, who has done engineering, mixing and producing for acts such as Barenaked Ladies, Bryan Adams, Greg Allman and The Stylistics, to help to convey the emotional depth of Real’s lyrics and melodies. His cooking instruments, however, need no assistance. 

“I’m thrilled to fill ears with songs and find it rewarding to be able to satisfy stomachs, too,” Mattei said.”

For tickets, visit

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. JustMe said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 03:52PM

“Great person! Great music! Great food! A South Philadelphia gem! Way to represent and make us proud!”

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2. Pat mullaney said... on Feb 23, 2013 at 10:17AM

“What a GREAT Article......I wish I could come by the studio tonight to see you guys play...AND.... eat some yummy food but, We had something else lined up....Can't wait for the next one.... Good LUCK guys ROCK!!!”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 27, 2013 at 03:08PM

“Mariano is the best!!”

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4. joanne Benedetto said... on Feb 27, 2013 at 07:26PM

“Great concert !!!!!! can i rent your room to tech Zumba & Yoga classes ?????”

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5. rosanna del vecchio said... on Feb 28, 2013 at 07:50AM

“Good musician, good cook, Good looking. Mariano you are the best!!!!!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:52PM

“So proud of all your accomplishments !!!”

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7. Jay said... on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:10AM

“He Rocks when he cooks !!!!!!!!!!!!”


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