Francine Mace of NYC’s Amáli on Mediterranean wine - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Francine Mace of NYC’s Amáli on Mediterranean wine

Francine Mace—everyone knows her as Frankie—started her hospitality career bussing tables at Xavier’s in Piermont, NY. She worked at Lever House Restaurant and the Red Cat in Manhattan before earning her Level II certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and joining the team at Amáli in March of 2013. Caitlin Griffith spoke with Mace about learning the Mediterranean language of wine.

When I first started at Amáli, I hardly knew a thing about Greek wine. And our list is known in New York City as the place to drink (and eat) Mediterranean. Our cuisine is on the lighter, fresher side of things. We don’t use too much butter, mostly just olive oil. Folks will come in for our charcuterie, sharing plates, nibbling here and there. That type of eating is much more conducive to drinking white and crisp as opposed to giant and heavy, which is why I think our numbers skew towards white wine.

Assyrtiko, for instance, from Santorini. It’s an easy sell for us. When a guest comes in looking for something new, this is a perfect option: not too crazy and out there, fits the cuisine and focus of the restaurant, but is crisp and refreshing. And it’s super versatile, taking on many different forms. 

We’ve changed up the list slightly since I started a year ago; I’ve been working to flesh out the Italian side of things. That was my passion before coming on board at Amáli so I’m working to bring in some of more esoteric, indigenous varieties. Everyone has Tuscany and Piedmont covered, right? I think my proudest contribution to the wine list so far has been the introduction of weird and funky grapes: wines from Etna Rosso. Love those volcanic things!

We’re also working closer to home. I mean, we look afar for the influence on our cuisine but like many chefs and restaurants, source locally. I’m trying to do the same on the wine list so we’ve been working to bring in more bottles from Long Island and the Finger Lakes. We have a smattering of California producers who are small and great and have an Old World style to pair with our food. Also, wines from Washington State are blowing my mind right now. There is this one called Pursued by Bear, which is mostly cabernet from the Walla Walla Valley and it’s fantastic [a collaboration between Dunham Cellars and actor Kyle MacLachlan]. We also have a bunch of the Bergström wines—like the pinots from four different vineyard sites.

Right now, we are working on an exciting new project that will hopefully open early this spring: a chef’s tasting room upstairs. Instead of the reservationist dealing with our diners, it’ll be the chef taking reservations and speaking with the family, as well as (obviously) cooking for them. Same with the wine program: I’ll be sitting down and getting to know the table, whoever they may be on any given night, and we’ll tailor their entire dining experience. Called Sopra [Italian for “above”], it will be more of an osteria/trattoria type of dining experience.

Caitlin Griffith knew her future career would entail food and drink when, at the age of six, she munched an anchovy from her father’s Caesar salad thinking it as a small strip of bacon—and was more than pleasantly surprised. While enrolled in New York University’s Food Studies program, she learned the secrets of affinage in the caves of Murray’s Cheese.