Wine Director, General Manager & Sommelier
Mario Ortiz has worked for The Firehouse for 40 years. In 1971, at age 16 he applied for a part-time job at the restaurant as a busboy. Since then he has moved up the ranks and taken on new challenges, having had just about every job at The Firehouse.
In the early 1980s, Mario developed a real interest in wines and began reading about wines and visiting wineries to learn as much as possible. He met most of the area’s top winemakers including Robert Mondavi, Justin Meyer, Gil Nichols, Myron Nightingale, André Tchelistcheff, Peter Mondavi, and August Sebastiani. Mario’s love of food and wine led to a keen interest in wine pairings and how to make a good meal great with proper pairings.
Mario grew to become a highly respected wine expert and has developed the Sacramento Valley’s most impressive wine cellar, with more than 2,400 selections and 25,000 bottles of wine. Mario has also developed The Firehouse Vault, a magnificent list of very rare Californian and European wines for discriminating wine lovers in search of hard-to-find labels.
In 2002, Mario was promoted from special events director and wine buyer to general manager. As general manager, Mario is responsible for ensuring The Firehouse continues to enhance its reputation as one of the finest restaurants in the region.
Mario has met and served an incredible list of people over the years, including: every governor of California starting with Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Mohammed Ali, Andy Warhol, George Foreman, and Michael Jordan.
In 2007, Mario passed the introductory course of the Master Court of Sommeliers. In October 2007, Mario was awarded the Career of Excellence Award from the California Restaurant Association. The award is given annually to a restaurant industry professional with extraordinary talent for providing impeccable service. Recipients of the award have also made an undeniable impression on their peers.
In 2011, The Firehouse won the Sacramento Chamber’s Hall of Fame business award. This would not be possible without the efforts of Mario.