Friends With Benefits: Mark Wirtala
For Mark Wirtala, sommelier at Manzo inside Eataly at Park MGM, his job is much more than guiding guests through the wine selection. “I take a different approach to wine,” he says. “Sometimes people get lost in the educational aspect. For me, I love talking to people and seeing where they’re at, meeting them eye to eye and find out what they like, find a perfect wine for the evening.”
When speaking with Wirtala, one quickly picks up on his love for wine, but also his affection for getting to know his guests and truly guiding them through a complete dining experience. “I like to first and foremost be the most hospitable person you’ve ever met—hello, good evening and welcome,” he says. “Second, for me, I come to you and ask you what you like to drink. I’d love to find something that will work for you. Find something in your budget. And we go from there and we talk. I also love hearing about wine, I love people’s stories about wine.”
Born in Montana and raised in Las Vegas, Wirtala has been in the food and beverage industry for more than a decade. He’s put in the hard work and ascended the ladder from a busser on a graveyard shift at off-Strip properties to becoming a certified sommelier in 2009 and helping run wine programs at several Strip restaurants. He’s even, for a short stint, owned and operated a wine and beer shop in Portland, Ore. But last year he came back to Vegas to accept the sommelier position at Manzo.
“At Manzo, we don’t just serve food, we serve people—that’s a big component,” Wirtala says. “My favorite part of the job is pairing the wine and food together. Our food here is superb; and good Italian wine goes with really good Italian food.”
When it comes to the cocktail and wine program at Manzo, “we are exclusively 100 percent Italian through and through,” Wirtala says. Let Wirtala guide you through the massive variety of wines available, helping you pair flavors with Manzo’s traditional and innovative Italian dishes. However, take a break from the grape and try one of Manzo’s specialty cocktails—Italian twists on classic recipes, like the popular Manzo Mule. The cocktail is a blend of Russell’s Reserve 10 Year bourbon, lemon, ginger and honey syrup and Lurisia Chinotto soda. “The Chinotto, an orange Italian soda, gives the cocktail that tart, bright orange element,” he says.