Pier Muffato: From a tiny town near Venice, to Amsterdam and London, this hospo lifer is now running this bustling bar on the Goldy

The Roosevelt Lounge
75 Surf Parade
Broadbeach Gold Coast QLD

Lately, we have been shining a light on some of the bars and bar professionals that are outside of the big cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. In this interview, we chat to Pier Muffato, an Italian native who plied his trade as an apprentice in a small town near Venice and then in Amsterdam and London before taking on the mammoth task of running a bustling cocktail bar on the Goldy.

Tell us a bit about how you got started in the hospitality industry and where you have worked before.
I think what sparked my interest in hospitality is my curiosity towards flavors. Since I was very little, not even 10 years old, I always wanted to try new things, from the excitement of going to the restaurant or mixing fruit juices and soda at home. What we could probably consider my first “concoction” is nothing more than Aranciata (orange soda) and Ginger soda, a bright red nonalcoholic version of a bitter. I figured that one was too sweet for my taste and the other one too dry and bitter, but together…

As a persistent little boy, there was no family member who had the chance to avoid trying this and it became a thing in our family dinners.I find myself lucky to be growing up in a culinary environment, having the chance to eat in good restaurants and constantly cooking at home, sourcing products from our lands.

My parents often organised local wine festivals with many winemakers from the north of Italy, allowing me to work behind the scenes and learn the art of coordinating gastronomical events.

My official bartender career started in Mestre, a city just next to Venice. It was a small, loud and very busy cocktail bar. On my first day, I was welcomed by Daniele, a seasoned, charismatic bartender who shared his love for mixology, trying to shape me into a proper barkeeper from day one.

A year later, I felt confident enough to open my horizons, and I moved to Amsterdam, where I was lucky enough to get a job in one of the best cocktail bars in town: Freddy’s Bar. Situated in the heart of the city, it is owned by the one and only Freddy Heineken and is part of the luxurious hotel De L’Europe.

My career at Hotel De L’Europe started as a barback through the various bars and restaurants, expressing my interest in the fine dining department and obviously, the cocktail bar, where I found William Berkhoff, former bar manager at the American Bar at The Savoy, in London. In the upcoming years, he shared so much knowledge that allowed me to grow exponentially in the bar industry. Collaborating also with the executive chef Bas Van Kranen (two Michelin stars chef), always available to discuss flavours and techniques, pushed me to raise the bar on my creativity.

I started in December 2022 at Roosevelt Lounge, where I had the massive responsibility of running one of the best bars on the Gold Coast. Thrilled and excited is how I started my experience in Australia, focusing on what I can bring to this wonderful Lounge bar. A venue that resembles a 1920’ speakeasy deserves a classic hospitality approach, but a modern Gold Coast needs a modern touch. This is what we’re aiming to combine for our new concept coming out soon

The thing that surprised me the most about our industry is the ability to share information, from cocktail recipes to career advice. It is a community that helps itself grow by constantly raising the bar and constantly inspiring our creativity. There is no room for secrets, just different approaches.

Are you a classics or an experimental kind of bartender?
I love this question because I personally don’t have an answer. From menu development to actual service, I clearly adore a classic approach, but in terms of aromas, I surely like to explore unusual combinations of flavours.

I guess the only way to determine the outcome of this question is through the palate of our guests, which ultimately can decide what kind of bartender I am.

What does a shift behind the bar at Roosevelt look like? Run us through a day in your shoes.
Well, let’s start by saying that, like a lot of other venues, a day in the Roosevelt Lounge is never boring and always different.

My day usually starts with setting up the bar and making sure everything is ready for service. Our doors open at 17:00, accompanied by our classic jazz playlist.

Finishing touches on garnish, pre-batches and the egg white that runs out all the time. It usually starts with curious tourists looking for a drink before dinner, followed by our locals who enjoy the calm before the storm.

Dinner service runs smoothly, our food concept is very limited and we don’t consider ourselves as restaurants, but certainly, a casual dining experience is what you can expect.
At 20:00, suddenly the ambience changes, lights are softer and the music a bit louder, transforming the initial lounge vibe into a dynamic experience. Our DJ and saxophonist undoubtedly have the ability to float in between classical jazz and with a modern approach, just like we portray our cocktails.

The rest of the night is worth experiencing.

What are some of the things you love about the bar industry?
The thing that surprised me the most about our industry is the ability to share information, from cocktail recipes to career advice. It is a community that helps itself grow by constantly raising the bar and constantly inspiring our creativity. There is no room for secrets, just different approaches.

Some of the things you hate?
I hate how toxic work environments can truly be challenging for a lot of young bartenders. I’ve seen how greed can profiteer on the back of new employees, eventually pushing them into a different career.

What advice do you have for rookie bartenders starting out in their careers? Were there any big mistakes you made you’d like to see others avoid?
My personal advice to young bartenders is to take the role seriously and invest all your passion in it. Once people surrounding you recognise and appreciate your craft and dedication, many doors in our industry will open, allowing your career to grow exponentially.

Also, don’t feel betrayed like I did if someone is drinking a Balvenie 25YO and Pepsi Max. Understand that everyone has a different taste; don’t try to impose yours, but try to understand what’s theirs. It will help you next time to upsell the 30YO.

When you walk into a bar, what are you looking for?
Usually, like the majority of bartenders, sitting at the bar is a must. Not just to observe what’s going on behind the scenes but also to have the chance to connect with the person in front of me. Once that connection is established, I usually order a signature that impresses me and a classic (usually a Sazerac) to observe their style.

What makes a great bar experience?
My mentality supports the idea that every bar can deliver the same product, it is how It’s delivered that makes the difference. Creating that connection with your guests will allow them to perceive the experience in a distinct way. This is how guests become regulars, and regulars are the foundation of the business.

Creating a good concept is the second step to success, but understanding what the local scene needs, I guess is the first step for a great bar experience.

Funniest moment behind the bar.
Oh dear, that’s a question that has so many possible answers, but I’m going to pick one of the first “funny” moments: I’ve been told in my very first month that the best way to enhance the flavour of tonic is by shaking it. As you can imagine, I did try, having my shaker exploding in my face and hitting a massive 5kg olive jar just next to me. It took me ages to collect hundreds of olives running freely in the bar, while my colleagues in tears were filming the moment.

Best person to work with?
It may sound alarming for many reasons, but it’s my partner Joanne. Lots of people couldn’t work in the same environment as their girlfriend, but our chemistry came out while tendering the same bar, and still now is something I care about. She’s my honest opinion, that voice that helps improve everything we do and an excellent innovative bartender, that allows us to discuss new ideas not only at work constantly.

Who inspires you?
There are many figures in the bar industry that I follow with admiration, but to be fair I’ve never asked myself “who” inspires me. At the moment, I would say Shannon Deane and Jacob Low, our operations managers at the Gennari Group certainly deserved a mention. They’re working nonstop to make sure our venues are running smoothly, with a massive motivation and effort behind the scenes that is not always recognized.

What are you drinking right now?
Antica Formula vermouth served on an ice block with an orange slice.

Top 5 Favourite Cocktails

N5. Tommys Margarita
N4. Rob Roy
N3. Closing Argument
N2. Milano-Torino / Negroni, depending on the moment
N1. Sazerac, religiously Cognac and rye

Top 5 Favourite Bars
N5. Paradiso, Barcelona.
N4. Il Mercante, Venice.
N3. Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, Rome.
N2. Donovan Bar, London.
N1. Maybe Sammy, Sydney.