Frankie Mace worked at The Red Cat in Chelsea before making her way across town to Amáli a year and a half ago. Taking her cues from the menu, deep in Greek and southern Italian flavors, as well as her own Southern Italian roots, she’s since built one of the most comprehensive Mediterranean-focused lists around—although she still stocks some Sancerre for those who want to stick to more familiar ground.
On Greeks and Italians
This year I took a look at what’s going on in Greece and made it my mission to share all the great wines I’ve discovered. There are some fantastic producers working there today—people like Economou [in Crete], Hatzidakis [in Santorini]. We used to have just one Hatzidakis wine; now we have four or five cuvées, and a mavrotragano—a red wine. Greek wine still doesn’t get a lot of respect; it breaks my heart when people say, ‘No, I don’t want a Greek wine.’
I bumped up the Italian selections as well—especially Tuscany and Piedmont—we needed to; it’s what people know. But I wanted to shine a light on the south, too—Campania, Calabria, Sicily. For the better part of six months now, we’ve been doing a fiano by the glass, and, except for Sancerre, it’s our best-selling glass pour. It’s crazy, as most people don’t know it—it’s not chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or riesling—but people do come in wanting to try something new. It also fits really well with the restaurant, as there is a historical connection between Campania and Greek wine.
In fact, if I were eating here tonight, I’d have the octopus and a glass of fiano. I like fancy wine, but I also like comforting, and that’s what fiano is to me. My family is from Avellino—they still have a farm there, a hazelnut and chestnut farm—and I think of that and fiano just makes so much sense to me.
On American wines in a Mediterranean restaurant
You have to have producers people know, and that’s the case with the American wines here more than any other section. Wines like The Prisoner—people just order it. You want to ask sometimes, ‘Don’t you want to talk about that? We might be able to find something else to go with your salt-baked fish.’ But they just want that wine.
Burgundy doesn’t do as well as I’d thought it would, especially given the fish on the menu, and the number of people who want to drink red. Instead they go for an Etna Rosso or even a Beaujolais. Maybe it’s price—it’s hard to find a good Beaune you can sell for $58—but then again, even now, after the holidays, when you’d think it would be slow, we’re selling plenty of bottles over $100.
photo by Jaci Berkopec