6 April 2023

Pastorale promises top-notch Wagga hospitality but won't be labelled 'fine dining'

| Chris Roe
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Richard Moffatt

Richard Moffatt is planning a big year for Pastorale. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Richard Moffatt reckons the secret to success in the hospitality business is investing in great people.

“I only employ people that are passionate about food and wine and then we let them do their thing,” he says.

“A big part of the way we do it is that we have heavily invested in our staff and everyone we employ takes ownership of the business and really works to drive it.”

Richard announced last week that he and business partner Karl Hulford would go their separate ways with Karl focusing on their original business, Meccanico Espresso + Wine, while Richard will give Pastorale his undivided attention.

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The pair launched Meccanico in 2019 and branched out in 2021, fitting out a portion of the historic Riverine Club to bring something new to Wagga.

Richard explains that while Meccanico “went bananas” from day one, Pastorale was a long, slow burn after they opened during COVID-19.

“I really feel we hit our straps in December last year when we were booked out every single night and it really hasn’t died off since then,” he says.

“We’re getting more walk-ins off the street, the bookings are increasing and bigger functions are increasing.

“I think it took a little bit of time for us to find our feet and build our reputation.”


Richard Moffatt says investing in staff is the key to great hospitality. Photo: Supplied.

Richard’s interest in hospitality began in Italy where he lived for several years with the Australian road cycling team.

He has worked to capture the “simplicity and generosity of Mediterranean hospitality” serving premium local produce and embracing traditional cooking methods using fire, smoke, and coals.

“All I have ever tried to do with both Meccanico and with Pastorale is to bring that professional hospitality service that you get in the cities that is lacking in a lot of regional centres and to try and elevate the dining scene here in Wagga,” says Richard.

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But while he is proud of the stylish fit-out, and the quality of the service and food, he is also eager to shrug off the fine dining tag.

“That was our problem over the first two years that people thought it was fine dining so they think they’ll only ever go there on a special occasion and they need to book and get dressed up and that it would be really expensive. It worked against us,” he explains.

“In actual fact, our steaks are the same prices as the pub, but there was a perception we were fine dining and expensive.”

Lights on a wall with glasses in the background

Pastorale was established in the historic Riverine Club. Photo: Supplied.

Richard says a more casual marketing approach has worked and people are embracing things like Tuesday’s ‘Pasta Club’.

It’s a perception he hopes to build on as Pastorale heads into its third year.

“I’m working with the Riverine Club on putting a woodfired pizza oven out in the courtyard, which is a bit of an unused asset,” says Richard.

“I think that I can turn it into Wagga’s best beer garden – excellent wines, excellent cocktails and just keep it in that European style with really cool woodfired pizzas that people can smell when they’re walking up and down along the river.”

Utilising the river frontage for special occasions is also something Richard hopes to get going in 2023.

“I’m working with the council and Tim McMullen from Borambola Wines to put on one of regional New South Wales’ longest outside dinners for the Gears and Beers (cycling festival) weekend,” he explains.

“There’s a lot of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra people in town. I want to do one long 200-person table right up and down the levee bank with festoon lights and live music.

“We can showcase Riverina wine and Riverina produce because we don’t ever use anything from outside a 50-kilometre radius from Wagga.”

You can learn more about Pastorale here.

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