30 January 2023

Five Minutes with Richard Moffatt, Meccanico & Pastorale

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Richard Moffatt

Richard Moffatt, owner of Meccanico and Pastorale, draws on his experiences in Italy. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who is Richard Moffatt? I’m the owner of Meccanico Espresso and Wine and also the owner of Pastorale. I am a dad with two young girls, who are three and five. My venture into hospitality began when I lived in Italy for about four years when I was with the Australian cycling team. That’s my professional sporting background. While living in Italy, I formed a great appreciation for food and wine. It was not only about the food and wine itself but what it means and how it brings people together. And I think you can see that coming through in our venue. So I’m very passionate about food and wine and what that does with people, and we try to emulate that here at Meccanico and Pastorale.

Best recent dining experience: France-Soir, a French restaurant in South Yarra in Melbourne. I just love the service there. I like old-school restaurants that have waiters where that is a profession. I think it’s very common in Australia for waiting or waitressing not to be a profession but always seems to be an in-between job. When I go to a venue where I can see that the staff are actually professional waiters, the service is super on point, and that makes the dining experience. France-Soir employs French waiters; they’ve been there for many years, and that’s their profession. It really shows in their passion and their service. The food is excellent there, but the service is what really makes that, and I think that’s one of our best dining experiences.

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Favourite cuisine: Japanese. European would be a very close second which is what we do here at Meccanico and Pastorale. But when I travel, I always like to find a really good Japanese restaurant.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Two-minute noodles, and I’m going to say they are for the kids. But when coming home late from work some nights and I have nothing in the house to eat, I have been guilty of stealing them too.

Some of Mecccanico’s breakfast options. Photo: Supplied.

What ingredient can I not live without? Cheese.

Best coffee spot in Wagga: I’m clearly going to say Meccanico. It is my best coffee spot.

Meccanico’s coffee is from Art of Espresso – their signature blend is the ‘blues blend.’ Photo: Supplied.

What’s your coffee blend? Art of Espresso from Young and our signature blend is the ‘blues blend’.

Next big thing in the Wagga food scene: I would like to see and maybe take part in a very small Japanese-style cocktail bar that is focused on high-end cocktails and really good fresh sashimi.

Straciatella with seasonal fruit and thyme-infused honey. Photo: Supplied.

A must-try on our menu: At Pastorale, all of our pastas are a must-try. I think we’re the only venue in Wagga that’s actually making every single pasta by hand and every single sauce by hand. And the boys have a very strong passion for their pasta. At Meccanico, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a coffee and an egg and bacon roll.

My biggest culinary influence: I’m going to say it was my whole experience of living overseas in Italy. We lived in a non-touristy regional area, and I think the product that was displayed, both in home dining and in restaurants, was true. It wasn’t touristy at all and true to the product, and I think that was really what shaped my passion for food.

Richard says each of the pastas at Pastorale is a must-try. Photo: Supplied.

Favourite cookbook: The chefs in the kitchen they’re going to kill me for saying this, but I actually really enjoy all the Jamie Oliver cookbooks. The chefs think Jamie Oliver is a little bit cliche, but I think what he does for people like myself as a home cook is great and easy to understand.

Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene: As far as the restaurant that I like to dine out at when it’s not my own is Mates Gully. As far as restaurateurs, I have two. They’re both in very separate markets of the food pyramid. Rob and Tammy from Thaigaa and Tony Aichinger from McDonald’s. Out of their businesses, they’re very passionate about Wagga. They’re small business owners that are really helping to drive the community through charities and local events, and they are very passionate about elevating Wagga.

Pastorale pastas are handmade. Photo: Supplied.

What are this week’s specials at Pastorale and Meccanico? At Pastorale – our market fish is a whole baby snapper that we cook over a naked flame – so over charcoal, there’s no gas or electricity. At Meccanico – all of our beautiful, freshly made pastries. You can’t go wrong with them. We use the French artisan baker.

Death row meal: A proper Italian pizza with a Negroni.

My least favourite food: I can never get my head around offal.

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My COVID-19 response: We did well. We opened Meccanico in October 2019 and boomed for four months and then COVID hit us. I remember a lot of the other businesses at that time closed for about two weeks to get their head around how they were going to adapt and change. We opened up the next day and went straight into takeaway mode. I think we were able to think super quick on our feet because it was very new and we had no system set in stone. So we just adapted really quickly with takeaway coffees and takeaway food. We were lucky that we had a big retail section with our wines and we went into a mini gourmet Dan Murphy’s and we did a lot of our own retail wines, and we just adapted that way very quickly. COVID was a good learning curve for our brand-new business.

My top three cooking tips: Really good ingredients. Don’t overcomplicate it. And cook what you like. Don’t be guided by rules or fashions or trends or photographs on Instagram. If you enjoy it, cook.

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