By Marla Horn Lazarus
“Life Is A Combination Of Magic And Pasta.” – Frederico Fellini
Off the beaten track, rustic Italian cuisine at Macchialina is an energetic, casual Italian taverna featuring the bold, seasonally inspired cooking of Chef/Owner Michael Pirolo. The 70-seat establishment emits a rustic warm, inviting and hip ambiance that feels as if it has been plucked from the streets of New York City.
Born in Queens, New York, but raised in Avellino, Italy, James Beard Semi Finalist Chef Michael comes from a fiercely passionate food family. So much, in fact, that at the age of 21 he enrolled in culinary school in Torino, Italy; a formal education that led to apprenticeships at Michelin-starred establishments. After finishing his degree, he relocated to New York and changed tracks, immersing himself in French cuisine before relocating to Philadelphia to take the role of sous chef at Alfred Portale’s Striped Bass, where he met managing partner, Jennifer Chaefsky. A friendship turned to romance and when Michael had the opportunity to return to New York to take a post, Jennifer went with him. Following his love of Italian cuisine and striking up a professional bond with celeb chef/restaurateur Scott Conant, Michael joined Scott’s Scarpetta restaurant in New York, then relocated to Miami to take the helm as chef de cuisine of Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There, Michael made a name for himself and rose through the media ranks as a rising star in Miami’s culinary community, an earnest, hard-working, careerist “chef’s chef.” Jennifer enjoyed A-list entry in to the culinary profession and was fueled only by a burning passion for food and hospitality. She cut her teeth in restaurants operated by one of that city’s foremost culinary icons, Stephen Starr. Under the Starr banner she learned the ins and outs of the business, especially the arts and sciences behind management. In 2012, after nearly a decade together personally, Jennifer teamed up with Michael on a business venture and Macchialina was born.
With a warm and inviting atmosphere, we relaxed in the dining room, adorned with antique brick walls, cozy, tufted leather banquettes and handcrafted wood tables. Macchialina’s lively bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a Negroni and snacks or a full meal. As we perused the menu we began our culinary Italian adventure with some Antipasti including a delicious meat and cheese board consisting of Soppressata, house made Porchetta, Speck, Gorgonzola dolce, Taleggio and 24 month Parmigiano along with grilled country bread with salsa verde or fontina fonduta. Creamy local Burrata is served with heirloom tomatoes, arugula and prosciutto while the warm Butternut Squash Salad with hazelnuts, kale, prosciutto drizzled with balsamic was superb. Mediterranean Octopus, served with concentrated tomato and potato crema and the Polpettine, veal cheek & pork meatballs burst with flavor. The BroccolinI al Cesare with toasted garlic and parmigiano as well as the creamy Polenta with Proper Sausage “Macchialina Blend” of sausage ragu and cipollini is simply outstanding.
At the heart of Italian cuisine is the magic of beautiful, handmade pasta. Macchialina practices this time-honored tradition by making all of their pastas by hand using only the highest quality ingredients. Their award winning pastas are inspired by fresh, local ingredients and combined in seasonal and imaginative ways by the deft hand of Chef Michael. Don’t miss the the luscious Tagliolini Ai funghi with abalone mushrooms and parmigiano or the Spaghetti Vongole, loaded with little neck clams, calabrese chiles and arugula. The classic Spaghetti Pomodoro with Tomato basil is excellent as is the short rib and taleggio Lasagna.
The Local Catch of the day is delicious and served with Yukon gold potato, brown butter and capers while the succulent Honey-Dijon half organic chicken is served with porcini crumble, charred scallions and polenta.
Grilled to perfection is the 21-day dry aged NY strip, served with crushed fingerlings and truffled mushrooms while the Veal Milanese with concentrated tomato, arugula amd parmigiano reggiano can also be made parmigiano style. Contori of sides, large enough to share featured parmigiano roasted potatoes, balsamic roasted chippolini onions and sautéed broccoli rabe.
Save room for sweet treats of irresistible Triamisu with chocolate crumble and espresso granite along with the decadent Bread Pudding with banana, hazelnut crumble and bitter chocolate. Warm Zeppoli is served with chocolate and hazelnut while the creamy Vanilla Panna Cotta is served with yummy balsamic strawberries and pistachio crumble. You will never go wrong with Cannoli filled with whipped ricotta, chocolate and pistachio along with a steamy cappuccino or espresso.
Take a trip to Italy in a cozy and comforting experience as you indulge in Chef Michael’s rustic yet sophisticated, Italian fare. Reservations are recommended, as Macchialina is open daily for dinner. Bon Appétit…
820 Alton Road, Miami Beach • 305-534-2124 macchialina.com/miami-beach