[Palo Alto] Caffe Machiavello- Italian/ Peruvian and the delightful El Tumi

A recent blog post by Elena Kadvany in local press about Caffe Machiavello mentioned that Maria Neal, one of the owners, is looking for local gardeners to help them grow aji amarillo and rocoto peppers so they can use them fresh in the Peruvian cooking instead of frozen. When I read that, I was real surprised that there actually was a Peruvian place close by and I was completely unaware. Its said that they are ‘slowly introducing more dishes from her native Peru’ And its great that they care about quality to want the fresh stuff. So we went a few days later.

The cafe is located in a quiet stretch of Page Mill in a new residential-office complex, technically just off the ‘bend’ of Page Mill where it goes under the tracks. Didn’t realize the complex existed. But apparently if one pays attention driving on Page Mill before the bend, the sign is visible. Its surrounded by offices a few blocks from California Avenue and the Caltrain station. So the cafe serves up some familiar office lunch fares- pizzas, sandwiches, etc. But of course I had my eyes on the Peruvian fare. When we went Sunday for lunch, there was only one other group in the cafe since there’s no one working in the offices around on Sundays. I didn’t see many Peruvian dishes on the menu so I asked the server about it. He talked to the chef and came back and told us that the chef could make three Peruvian dishes that day, the lomo saltado and the el tumi on the menu, and a Huancaina-spiced pizza. We got the first two.

The standard lomo saltado. A little bit fancier than the usual lomo saltado with everything piled on top of everything. Quite tender ribeye cooked medium that’s well marinated, sitting on a fairly strong soy sauce based sauce. The menu mentioned a touch of aji Amarillo pepper in the spicing but I didn’t notice.

The delightful el tumi. Easily the most delicious thing I have eaten in a month, and what prompted me to write this whole post. Seared in high heat, the quinoa had plenty of ‘wok hay’. A little dab of the hot sauce made with recoto pepper, combined with a forkful of the quinoa with some slight heat. My wife and I finished that in no time. It was really good.

Peach cobbler. We don’t usually order dessert in cafes, but when the server came by and asked us, we asked him what desserts they offered. The server said that they could make a peach cobbler. We ordered it right away just so we could see what the chef could do. It was a nice version with mango ice cream on top.


I chatted with Rahsaan the chef afterwards and he asked us how we found them. I told him about the article that they are looking for people to help them grow pepper. He happily offered to let us grow some for them but I said that I am no good in growing anything. I did mention to him that he and his wife should talk to Happy Quail Farm in East Palo Alto, a specialty pepper farm who may be happy to grow some for them.

I asked him about other Peruvian dishes and whether we could get more Peruvian specialties with some advanced notice. He said if we could let him know 2-3 days in advance, they could do some shopping and prepare. He said that his wife is Peruvian whose family originally immigrated from Italy to Peru during WWII. The Peruvian recipes came from her mom. Machiavello is Maria’s maiden name.
The El Tumi is not a traditional Peruvian recipe, but something he improvised based on what he learned from Maria and her mom. His wife wasn’t there that day but its said she’s always there. I asked where he cooked previously and he said Italy for 3 years, and he was an accountant before that. :slight_smile: They just came back and opened up this place about 7 months ago.

Now that he mentioned the Italian connection, and based on the strength of the El Tumi dish alone, I will have to return soon to try also their non-Peruvian dishes. Apparently they have Roman pinsas using Italian flour. I have to inquire what flour they use.

The chef obviously put some real effort into the dishes. He took his time to prepare the dishes and it showed.

The dining room, the kitchen and the bathroom are spotless.


Some nice artwork inside the cafe:


They got some outdoor seating as well. Apparently this is a new residential-office complex just off the ‘bend’ of Page Mill when it goes under the tracks. Didn’t realize that its built. But apparently if one pays attention driving on Page Mill before the bend, the sign is visible.


Quinoa with wok hay? Wow!

Considering Pinsa were unknown to the Bay Area a few years ago, I’m curious about their inclusion there!

Terrific review!

Thanks for the review. I am now working nearby, sounds like a place to try. I think of that as the “hole in the ground” building because it was a hole for a very long time when I worked in the building bordering that (2008).

On a proximal related note, I ate at Protoge on California Ave last night and wasn’t overly impressed. I have been fighting a cold so my taste buds might have been off, not worth reviewing yet.

Hole is now gone, but the plaza of the residential building was oddly quiet.

I wasn’t too impressed by the few dishes i tried. this was around a month or two after they opened.

You want to share some observations there?