Posted on | March 21, 2014
Written by | W.R. Tish
The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart, especially in Manhattan. BLT Steak, founded in 2004, has gone through growing pains, but the emphasis is clearly on growth, as the original outpost in NYC has spun off more than a dozen sibling eateries. Now the flagship of ESquared Hospitality—an international restaurant and hospitality group owned by Jimmy Haber and Keith Treyball—BLT Steak continues to excel in food, wine and service. We checked in with Alex Berlingeri to get a sense of the restaurant’s arc.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: What is a favorite current pairing from your menu and list?
ALEX BERLINGERI: 28-Day Dry Aged Bone in New York Strip Steak with Quill Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2006
TBN: What are some wines that are doing especially well for you by the glass?
AB: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Brunello, Cabernet, Crozes Hermitage.
TBN: Do the restaurants in the BLT group create their lists independently, or centrally?
AB: Up until now each restaurant has crafted their wine list independently, but moving forward we’re going to do a little bit of both.
TBN: How many distributors do you do business with, and do you have a system/routine for managing your wine orders?
AB: More than 20. I usually order about once a week. I’ll call my orders in to the distributors on Monday, on Thursdays I double check if there’s anything else I need, and I’ll have the wines delivered on Friday.
TBN: Looking back 10 years to the original wine list, what sticks out to you in terms of how the offerings have changed?
AB: I’m proud to say we’re still committed to offering what we did 10 years ago. We feature small producers, interesting grape varieties and amazing quality wines.
TBN: What are some recent trends you have noticed in wine in general, and in your restaurant in particular?
AB: Consumers tend to go for a young Cabernet or Bordeaux to go with their meal, which is a shame. These wines have not yet aged to their full potential and are not ready to drink, but it’s what consumers are used to; most restaurant beverage programs do not have the luxury of serving 15-20 year old Cabernets. We have slowly changed the way our guests drink wine. At BLT Steak we’ve been seeing a much more adventurous clientele. Our guests are happy to explore suggestions that fall outside of their comfort zone, which makes my job as a sommelier a lot more fun. I love watching a guest enjoy a bottle I’ve recommended.
TBN: What words-of-wisdom do you find yourself frequently telling staff?
AB: Wine is an agricultural product, so if you know the climate of the region you can answer most of the questions the guest will have about what the wine will be like.
TBN: What are some other wine programs that you admire?
AB: Eleven Madison Park, Per Se and Daniel.
Cuisine: American Steakhouse
Selections on the wine list: 650
Bottles in inventory: 4,200
Price range of list: $40-$1,800
Average bottle price: $90-$130
Sweet spot on list: $105-$150
Wine list strengths: Burgundy; Italy; Bordeaux; domestic Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon
Wines by the glass: 20, adjusted monthly
Price range by the glass: $13-$36
Type of Stemware: Riedel
Preservation system used? Vacu-Vin