William Berkis of Acme, NYC Goes From Scandinavian-Inspired to Sicily

New American meets Old World in Manhattan

William Berkis became enamored with the restaurant industry while waiting for the results of his bar exam. He left his New York legal career behind and moved to Oslo, Norway, in 2015, went to work at three Michelin-starred Maaemo in 2016, and hasn’t looked back. He eventually made his way back to New York, landing at Acme as the general manager and wine buyer. While his past jobs were Scandinavian-inspired, it’s the Italian varieties that excite him the most these days.

What trends have you been seeing at Acme?
Sancerre is something I’ve had a lot of requests for specifically. In previous jobs, I’ve had requests for pinot grigio or a dry, simple white wine. I’ve noticed people are going for the Sancerre or grüner veltliner or even Chablis, and specifically using those appellations by name.

Acme’s menu is considered New American, yet there seem to be a lot of Italian wines sprinkled in.
I try to keep my personal preferences out of the decision process, but I have always loved Italian wine and they speak to me during tastings with vendors.

Specifically, people are responding to the nerello mascalese, the Pietradolce. When we brought it on, it was flying. It’s a light-bodied, tannic, and fruit-forward but also earthy with volcanic minerality. We kept it around because it does well, though it has slowed slightly. When it’s colder, I think people want wine more full and heavier bodied—so, cabs—but that nerello mascalese is my favorite variety. Plus, I’ve been to Sicily and someone brought it to me for the right price.

Prosecco is high on your BTG list as well.
I think people love Prosecco. We have a nice mix of three by-the-glass bubbles: a lower-end Prosecco, the middle-tier rosé, then Champagne. To be honest, our clientele varies throughout the week and even through the night. We have a lounge downstairs that attracts a large crowd especially Thursday, Friday, Saturday, with a DJ playing every night. Earlier on in the night, we notice the guests are here for dinner and to specifically eat and drink. From about 9:30 to midnight, it’s a younger crowd that maybe doesn’t have the same means or they’re saving up to spend on drinks downstairs, so they have to sustain throughout the night. That’s when we see a lot of Prosecco going—for toasts, rounds to start off dinner, celebrating a night out, occasions. I think it moves well because it’s a good option—dry, a crowd pleaser—but also a bit cheaper.

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