Walk into the Alcove’s Big Bar — a Los Angeles favorite known for its superb mixology program — and there’s no way you’ll miss Matt the “Sicilian Assassin” Nicchitta, who stands at 6-foot-4 in the ironically tiny establishment. His size will definitely come in handy during his upcoming brawl for the Bartender Boxing Organization, as will his fierce training regimen and positive spirit.
Nicchitta is replacing a boxer who was injured in training, so he began training about three weeks after the other bartending boxers had been regularly hitting the gym. He’s made a valiant effort to catch up, though, and is throwing his all into the competition.
“It’s tough, and it requires a lot of endurance,” he told Tales. “You’ve got to have a lot of heart, and hopefully you’re not too afraid to get punched in the head once or twice, either. At the same time, it’s a very fulfilling feeling when you’re walking out of that gym.”
Like the other contestants entering the boxing ring this summer, Nicchitta had to learn how to balance work, a rigorous training schedule, and his social life. Though it’s been a bit of a learning curve, he’s found his stride.
“The first couple weeks I was doing the training, I was still being myself and maintained my current social life. I realized after a couple of weeks in the gym, with my boxing trainers, that I had to make some adjustments,” he said. “Between sleep, running, gym, and work, I’ve been pretty busy and have put my social life kind of on halt.”
That hard work is worth it, though, if not for a potential victory or better gym game, but because it’s served as a sort of bonding experience between Nicchitta and his Big Bar coworkers and friends. He noted that his cocktail colleagues have rallied around him since he announced his participation, which has helped keep him motivated. They’ve served as relentless cheerleaders through the training process, and they’re even having shirts made to show their support.
“They’ve been awesome, and they’re all going to be there screaming,” he said. “They’ve even got the after-party — or after-memorial — planned, depending on how it turns out for me.”
As far as tying this whole boxing thing into his career as a bartender, Nicchitta said that he can tell his speed behind the bar has improved since he began training. He also said that his strengths as a bartender — resiliency and heart — also come in handy in the ring. His strategy for the day of is to not “get knocked out,” to throw himself into the competition with no reservations, and to proudly represent Big Bar and the Los Angeles bar scene.
Nicchitta made it a point to shout out Big Bar’s bar manager, Cari Hah, who has helped put the bar on the cocktail map since she joined the team in late 2015. In Nicchitta’s words, Hah is “one of the reasons Big Bar continues to do so well.”
If you have the opportunity to drop by Big Bar, give yourself plenty of time to look over the impressive, highly innovative cocktail menu, which changes seasonally. Also make sure to ask Nicchitta how he fared in the ring.
“Bartenders for boxing is a great experience for bartenders who may have never gotten the chance to train as a boxer with professionals,” Nicchitta said. “I’m excited to test myself, and hopefully be victorious.”