Alice - Head Sommelier and Restaurant Manager

Alice - Head Sommelier and Restaurant Manager

Alice Massaria

1. How did you get your start in wine?

I have always been involved in wine because where I am from, Vicenza ITA, it’s part of the culture. When I began working in hospitality, my interest in wine kept growing day by day.

When I reached management level, I wanted to learn more so I decided to study through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). After completing levels two and three WSET, I felt confident with my knowledge and a thirst to learn more so I reached out to Franck Moreau MS for a job as a full time sommelier for Merivale. I will be always grateful to Franck for letting me be part of the best Somm team in Australia, I have learnt so much and I felt always challenged which made me grow a lot.

 My wine career officially started at Merivale  working at Mr Wong and Uccello. I worked on the floor as Sommelier before being promoted to head sommelier role, then embarking on a trip overseas to learn more about the production of wine.

In 2015 I sat the exam for the Court of Master Sommelier passing the introductory and certified level.

I flew to Sicily to work for Cos winery. When back in 2016, I have started to work at Saint Peter for the wonderful Josh Niland. After few months, I missed the contact with vineyards and wineries so I flew back to Europe, Priorat (Spain) this time, to work at Terroir al Limit winery.

I returned to Sydney in November to start my own consulting business, Wine Concept, which focuses on private and corporate tastings and wine events in addition to consulting to develop wine lists for bars and restaurants. Bistecca’s wine list is my first project.

2. What led you to Bistecca?

I have been friends with Pip (Head Chef) for a few years so I was introduced to Liquid & Larder (parent company) when Bistecca’s was being created.

Pip told me about Bistecca and the team wanted to sit down to see how I could be part of it. I went to the meeting with an open mind, knowing I wasn’t looking for a full time job on the floor but I wanted to listen their idea and try to understand what I could do for them.

I met Warren Burns (co-owner) and we got along straight away: we knew we were going to work together. So I accepted to write the wine list for them and stay few months to help them going. After the second week I told them that I was falling in love with hospitality again: great company, great bosses, great team and Bistecca is just an amazing venue.

It makes me feel proud to be part of it. So it looks like I won’t leave anytime soon!


3. Can you describe the wine offering? Are there any challenges involved with having such a big overseas wine program?

We think that Bistecca as a whole is a challenging venue, from the booking system, to the one only cut of meat, to few interesting serving points (I won’t reveal them). I have tried to apply the same principals to the wine list. Warren and Jimmy (owners) are showcasing a Venetian style cocktail bar adjoining a Tuscan style restaurant, so I decided to write a 100% Italian list.

I am aware that nowadays there are many Australian upcoming winemakers making great wine from Italian grape varieties so these are also well represented. There are two main challenges that I am facing with the decision to feature only Italian wine and Italian grape varieties from Australia: CBD customers have a straightforward palate (Big oakey Chardonnay, Central Otago Pinot Noir, Barossa Valley Shiraz, etc..). When they don’t see these wines on the list they might feel not confident, so it is up to me suggest similar styles they can still enjoy.

For those not familiar with Italian wines, it might be quite intimidating. Therefore, I have organized the list by weight so customers can feel more confident in ordering. The list can sometimes be overwhelming. I can invite customers to my wine room and show exactly what is on the list. I find that the visual approach is more effective and also more interactive, especially when many of the labels are difficult to read.

Photo Credit: Haverick Meats

Photo Credit: Haverick Meats

4. How do Italian wines compare to Australian varieties?

As a general rule, Australian wine (like all the New World Wines) tend to be fruit forward, richer and oakier than the Old World. Italian wines tend to be drier, earthier and mineral and at times have dry and firm tannins. This poses another challenge for me. Australian palate perceives tannins as a big wine (see Nebbiolo or Sangiovese for example) while Italians look at Nebbiolo as a medium wine with high tannins but light body.

For example, there are very few wines in Italy that can be compared to a big Barossa Shiraz: Amarone, Aglianico, Sagrantino (and very few more). While it is challenging - it’s also incredibly fun! Bistecca customers are quite adventurous and happy to be led into unknown territories.

Sometimes I ask 1000 questions at the table, just because I want to make sure I am delivering a wine that the customer will be happy with. The most rewarding part is seeing customers happy with a wine they have never tried!


Lachie Gunner

What is your role at Bistecca and Liquid & Larder?

My role at Bistecca is to ensure that all every drink that goes out to your table is beautifully designed, crafted and of course tasty. I work with a number of talented people to create cocktails that show Sydneysiders who we are at Bistecca and what it is we strive for. We research and design cocktails with Sydney's tastes and industry trends always top of mind whilst at the same time testing exciting concepts and pushing conventional boundaries.  

Where did you get your start in Hospitality?

My start in hospitality was at an owner operated hotel in humble Adelaide. Here I was taught the value of true customer service as well as what it means to work hard. My first hospitality position was in floor maintenance where I was taught the importance of all the small jobs that make up the greater picture of running an impressive venue. My ultimate goal was (and still is) to learn about and make cocktails every single day. 

In your opinion, why is the Negroni so popular at Bistecca and in bars around the world?

The Negroni is beautiful in it's simplicity. Not to over think it - but even though the total number of botanicals in each ingredient in a negroni probably reaches close to 50, the simple act of mixining three ingredients  in equal parts and creating such a complex flavour is synonymous to everyday life is truly wonderful.  

What will we expect to see on the Bistecca Cocktail menu in 2019?

Bistecca makes great steak - Theres no doubt. The more exotic cocktail menu items showcase food in a new light. We currently offer a tasty negroni made with olives and one clarified with milk. I think we will continue to see this trend with food and in particular the steak - Bistecca fat washed negroni anyone?

What are your top three favourite amaros right now and why?

Even though Cardamaro has been nestled into the categroy of a 'cardamon amaro' its really surprising to see such lively and fruity flavours from an amaro that is based in a spice. It works wonders in bringing a little sour fruit flavours to more classic cocktails as a modifier.

Applewoods Okar has another soft spot in our back bar. It's unique hemp characters are a great point of difference from other amari and a grea conversation starter. It's light approachable nature make for a great introduction to the category - Plus it's proudly Australian made. 

My third pick is the Amaro di angostura. It's the jealous big brother to the subjectively more famous sibling - Angostura bitters. You can tell they're related but given the chance, the Amaro di Angostura really shines through as a modifier in classic cocktails that contain Angostura bitters.