"I've been in a relationship five years," says Matteo. "Don't let that hold you back," replies Ivan
It was the second visit to the First Dates restaurant on RTÉ 2 last night, with the show’s mix of featured daters ranging from the undeniably cute to the frustratingly awkward – with a dash of amorous amnesia thrown in for good measure. Joining Newstalk Breakfast live in studio this morning was maître d’ Matteo Saina, the matchmaker who helps load cupid’s quiver every week in the Coda Eatery of Dublin’s Gibson Hotel. And having gained an admirer in the form of Ivan Yates, the Newstalk presenter posed the question many people have been wondering – did he use the show as a platform for his own romantic adventures?
“It’s not about me,” Matteo replied. “It’s not my spot over there to be lurking around for the wounded animal,” he added, before revealing he has been in a committed relationship for the last five years, having first moved to Dublin in 2004 from Croatia.
A successful front-of-house employee in a string of Dublin restaurants, Matteo revealed his involvement in the show, a spin-off of the hugely popular Channel 4 version in the UK, came about via a third-party friend of the production company. But finding his own feet as the face of the First Dates restaurant has meant developing a style different to that of Fred Sirieix, the French maître d’ who’s made a name for himself across the Irish Sea.
“They told me to watch a few series,” Matteo told the show, explaining how he prepared for his new position. “And I had seen two and it was very hard to mimic or to follow all his footsteps, because he is brilliant at what he does.”
One of the daters who made an appearance on last night’s show, courting controversy for whipping off his shirt, wearing no socks, and asking his date how quickly she’ll sleep with a suitor, also spoke to the show. Kias, a 21-year-old self-confessed ladies man and mother’s boy, praised everyone involved in the show and explained what it’s like to go on a date surrounded by 12 cameras watching your every move.
“Once you sit down, the cameras are all rigged around the restaurant. So you actually don’t have any cameras in your face, so it’s not intrusive in any way. You’re focussed more on the date than on the cameras,” Kias said.
Every the diligent journalist, Ivan Yates wanted to follow the money, intrigued by whether or not the daters do actually cough up and pay the bill themselves.
“The money that I’ve saved on socks, you see, has allowed for the fact that I can pay for me own meals and meals for girls too,” Kias revealed.
Looking ahead to the long weekend, Matteo Saina offered his dating tips for anyone facing a potential tryst this evening, advising lovers everywhere to dress smart casual and be have some confidence.
“Stay true to yourself, follow your instincts, and believe in yourself,” he told a smitten Ivan.
First Dates returns to TV screens next Thursday at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2, and you can listen back to the full interview from this morning’s Breakfast below: