Derived from the pastoral Italian words, “Macchia” meaning “mark or spot” and “Maialina” meaning piglet, Macchialina was created to evoke a “small rustic eatery in the heart of a metropolis.” So, says Queens-born, Avellino-raised chef/owner Michael Pirolo. Opened in late June 2012 by the James Beard Award semi-finalist (“Best Chef: South)” with his partner Jen Chaefsky, Macchialina reigns as one of Miami Beach’s most beloved restaurants. Located in South Beach’s residential west side community, critics, locals and in-the-know tourists flock to the casually elegant eatery for Pirolo’s rustic yet sophisticated, Italian fare. Heavy on hospitality but light on pretense, a quaint, NYC-inspired setting, big, robust flavors, and outstanding service are the foundation of Macchialina’s success.
Nestled on a quieter southern stretch of Alton Road and what feels like miles away from the 24/7 party that is Ocean Drive, Macchialina is celebrated for its approachability and distinguished, self-styled European flair. Here you'll find none of the stereotypical attributes of a neighborhood Italian joint but much of the soul, warmth, approachability and menu staples you’d find at a red-and-white tablecloth joint; albeit elevated. Highly regarded for its seemingly simple yet deceptively, technically complex food, Macchialina is notorious for having ditched the Miami-style, upscale Italian restaurant mold usually characterized by prohibitive price points and pretentious plates and swapping it for an amiable, tavern-like feel serving up seasonally-inspired interpretations of traditional Italian favorites.
“Some may not even peg Macchialina as a premier destination for fine wine until they’ve seen the menu” says Managing Partner/Beverage Director Jacqueline Pirolo. “Our wine program prides itself on our selection of all-Italian wines sourced from estate-grown grapes and boutique growers, many hard to find.” Botantically-driven cocktails complement the savory menu; classic aperitivi are reimagined with names like “The Notorious P.O.P Spritz” to match the Big Apple-inspired ambiance. An assortment of digestivi such as a classic Limoncello and a selection of naturally flavored Grappas are made in-house.
Diners can start with a sampling of the house-made Porchetta atop a freshly fried Gnocco Fritto; an Emilia- Romagna classic. Pairing perfectly with one of Partner and Beverage Director Jacqueline Pirolo’s craft cocktail creations or a vintage bottle from her distinguished wine program, is an array of Antipasti options including Creamy Polenta dotted with a custom “Macchialina Blend” sausage ragu. The Broccolini al Cesare with toasted garlic and parmigiano – also ideal for communal grazing – can serve as the perfect prelude to one of Pirolo’s exquisite pasta dishes such as the Beet Mezzaluna with hazelnuts and brown butter topped with ricotta salata or Tagliolini ai Funghi with Abalone mushrooms and parmigiano. Entrées of note, include Veal Milanese with crisp arugula and cherry tomatoes and the succulent Organic Half Chicken with farro, artichokes, corn and porcini jus. Macchialina’s extremely popular Chef’s Tasting Menu consists of five courses at the very affordable cost of $59 per person. The tasting menu changes on a purely seasonal basis, which could be daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on ingredients. For an additional $50 per person, guests can add an exclusive wine paring to their meal. Considering the shareability of many of the restaurant’s plates, the tasting menu is a great way to experience Macchialina.
The cozy dining room, seating up to 70 guests is a charming, hospitable space rich with old school, Italian- American décor elements. Vintage photos of Sophia Loren and fellow Italian icons adorn the brick walls, juxtaposed against the sonic background of Pirolo’s music of choice – golden era hip hop. Tufted leather banquettes and distressed wood tables line the perimeter of the restaurant with the dine in bar separated from the dining room by a small counter installed for the many barflies that also call Macchialina home.
Part of Macchialina’s allure is its very existence in Miami. In a different city, such as New York or Chicago, it would be an integral part of the culinary community. On trendy Miami Beach, it is an outlier. Its purposeful lack of pretense and dedication to service, delicious food and hospitality – the sense that when you walk in you are paisan – makes it an almost nightly stop for besotted foodies.
No doubt this sense of being “family” comes from the fact that Macchialina is a family affair. Mike and Jen are business and life partners and chef’s sister Jackie, serves as partner, beverage director while also handling daily operations at the restaurant. This family dynamic extends northward, in fact, as the Pirolos also own/operate Macchialina’s sister restaurant, The Saint Austere, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Mike serves as executive chef of both; Jackie serves as partner; his brothers, Fabrizio and Gianfranco Pirolo, oversee the daily operations with Fabrizio's focus being in beverage.
Macchialina has been ranked among the “South Florida Food 50” by The Miami Herald (February 2015). Time Out Magazine featured it as one of the “Best 20 Italian Restaurants in America” (December 2015); and in 2018, was selected “Best Italian Restaurant in Florida” by The Daily Meal.