Five Essential Dishes to Order at Macchialina
It seems like there’s a new trendy Italian restaurant on every corner these days, but 10 years in, Macchialina still stands out as a Miami mainstay for housemade pasta and rustic Italian fare.
The family-owned and operated modern trattoria melds chef Mike Pirolo’s time cooking in Italy and New York, with his sister and beverage director Jacqueline Pirolo’s natural wine list, which focuses on Italy’s indigenous grapes.
“It’s tremendously humbling to become ingrained in the Miami community. We never thought 10 years ago that we would open a landmark restaurant,” Mike says.
Located on the residential side of touristy South Beach, Macchialina opened with the goal of catering to locals, and today it’s a true neighborhood staple offering soulful, seasonally inspired dishes in an energetic, yet casual environment.
“We continue to learn every single year and try to be better at what we do,” Jacqueline says.
While few family-owned restaurants in Miami Beach make it to a full decade, Mike notes, Macchialina signed a 10-year extension this year. Plus, expansion is on the horizon.
During the pandemic, the hostel behind Macchialina shuttered, and the restaurant was able to take over their patio space to offer more outdoor dining. Guests can now dine in Il Giardino, their lush 60-seat garden, and Macchialina will soon be renovating the former hostel’s indoor space too.
“Chef Mike will finally have a walk-in cooler — hard to believe we’ve never had one of those! — and I’ll get a fun wine room that guests will be encouraged to hang in,” Jacqueline notes.
We chatted with chef Mike and Jacqueline Pirolo about Macchialina’s menu, their equally noteworthy wine program, and what you need to order when you visit. Here, the siblings share what to eat and drink at Macchialina for a taste of the classics and new favorites, as the restaurant celebrates its 10th anniversary.
1. Broccolini al Cesare
Start your meal with a Macchialina classic, the Broccolini al Cesare with toasted garlic and Parmigiano. “This is our take on a Caesar salad, except served warm. It’s reimagining familiar flavors — which is the core of Macchialina’s philosophy,” Mike says. The broccolini represents the lettuce, the panko bread crumbs take the place of croutons, and it’s finished with a soft-boiled egg and anchovy dressing.
2. Creamy Polenta
This is the dish that got people hooked on Macchialina in the early days. “Our creamy polenta is a labor of love — it cooks for three hours every single day,” Mike says. “The topping changes seasonally, but the polenta is always the same: creamy and decadent.” Currently, it’s topped with their take on chicken scarpariello (an Italian-American dish of braised chicken in a sweet and sour broth). Macchialina’s version features thin slices of flash-fried chicken breast tossed in a sauce of chicken jus, white wine, tomato paste, fermented garlic, and chiles, topped off with pickled cherry peppers and chile oil.
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3. Cavatelli Macchialina
Macchialiana’s all-time best-selling dish is the ultimate in elevated comfort food. If you’re craving a hearty red sauce plate, their signature cavatelli pasta comes with baby meatballs, porchetta, and pecorino cheese. “It evokes the comforts of red sauce Sunday with pork braised in tomato, then shredded, and finally tossed in our house-made cavatelli,” Mike explains.
4. Maccheroni all’Avellino
A newer addition, this pasta with wine, shallots, and pecorino was added to the Macchialina menu this year. “At first glance, this is a very simple dish. However, when you eat it, it’s an explosion of flavors,” Mike says. Long, chewy Maccheroni is cooked in Fiano di Avellino, a white wine made with grapes grown in Avellino, the area in Italy where the Pirolo family is from. The pasta is then finished off with a touch of butter, black pepper and coarsely grated smoked pecorino. “The tangy flavors from the wine are balanced perfectly by the smokiness of the pecorino,” he says.
5. Cotidie from Paolo Bea
Speaking of wine, you can’t visit Macchialina without a pour from their award-winning wine list. The curated selection focuses exclusively on indigenous Italian grapes that are harder to find, and at times, have almost gone extinct. “Italy grows several hundred different grape varieties. Our wine list pays tribute to the farmers and families that have kept these varietals alive,” Jacqueline explains. For a must-try on the menu right now, she recommends the Cotidie from Paolo Bea. “It’s a unique blend of Sagrantino (an indigenous Umbrian red grape) and Trebbiano (a white grape), which offers an awesome freshness to this bolder red grape,” she says.
Guests can also enjoy the beverage director’s wine selections in their own home by joining Macchialina’s Wine Collective, which was born during the pandemic. “It began with me hand-delivering wine to our guests during the lockdown, sometimes in a car, sometimes on my Vespa,” Jacqueline recalls. “Guests would call me and say, ‘I would like X amount of bubbles, white and red, and I want to spend no more than X dollars – you pick!’ They were trusting me, and I had a blast.” Back then, she was simply keeping track of which wines guests got in each of their deliveries through a note on her phone to avoid choosing repeats.
The Wine Collective has since evolved into a monthly membership that includes a themed collection of two to six bottles per month (depending on price), plus a monthly treat from the Macchialina kitchen and first access to limited-run items like spicy Calabrese chile chocolate liqueur. “Each month, I select a different theme — many times suggestions from our members — like women winemakers, Italian expats, Italian grapes grown on U.S. soil, or crushable reds, to name a few. I love it because while Macchialina’s wine list focuses on Italy, our wine club covers wines from across the globe,” Jacqueline says. “It’s now been just shy of two years and I am still having a blast.”