Photo courtesy of Macchialina


The Macchialina Team Tells All About Their New Space (and What’s Next)


Opinions abound about the best Italian restaurant in Miami, but say Macchialina and you won’t find anyone who’ll disagree. The little, family-run Italian restaurant on Alton Road has become as close to an Italian food staple as we have in Miami, gaining fame for its fresh pasta and fried polenta.

Siblings Jacqueline and Michael Pirolo haven’t changed the place much since it opened in 2012. Then this spring, the Pirolos sprung Macchialina 2.0, moving into 5,600 square feet with a new design, a bigger kitchen, and a sprawling back patio. And the new digs are only the beginning. The Super Siblings have something brewing in their old Alton Road space, as well as a Little River wine bar and other big surprises. We sat down with Jacqueline and Michael over chicken parm and gnocchetti, as they talked about why they messed with perfection — and what’s coming next.

Michael Pirolo, Jennifer Chaefsky, and Jacqueline Pirolo of Macchialina
The Macchialina team of Michael Pirolo, Jennifer Chaefsky, and Jacqueline Pirolo. Photo by Adam DelGuidice for Resy
Michael Pirolo, Jennifer Chaefsky, and Jacqueline Pirolo of Macchialina
The Macchialina team of Michael Pirolo, Jennifer Chaefsky, and Jacqueline Pirolo. Photo by Adam DelGuidice for Resy

The old saying is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Macchialina certainly wasn’t broke, so why the big change?

Michael Pirolo: You know, after 12 years there, we outgrew the space. With the kitchen that we had, it became this thing where we were like turning away business. So it was just time for growth and expansion, you know? It kills us to turn people away. Now, hopefully, we don’t have to.

Jacqueline Pirolo: There was a hostel here, they closed down, and the landlord said, “Do you wanna take the whole space?” Meaning the whole building, and we were like, well, this is the chance to build the kitchen of our dreams. Macchialina was six burners, no walk-in cooler, all reach-in refrigerators. So there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed and updated to do the volume, and hopefully carry us into the next decade.

Macchialina space
Photo courtesy of Macchialina
Macchialina space
Photo courtesy of Macchialina

What was your inspiration for the new design? It feels very different from the old space.

JP:  Our travels to Italy, to Mexico City, a little bit to Berlin to be honest. And for us, there’s always this theme of cleaner, simpler, a little bit more minimalistic. But still warm, cozy, and inviting. For example, all over Mexico City homes, [they are] combining wood and cement. So, the cement floors with wood elements, the stucco, unfinished look, with the wood ceiling, and the steel, industrial feel.

MP: A lot of it was also to try and get the same feel [as the old Macchialina] in the bigger space. So we still made the bar the centerpiece of the restaurant, along with the expo window. Those were the heartbeats of the restaurant, and it’s the same thing here.

Macchialina's Mike Pirolo
It gives us a tremendous sense of pride to be owner-operators in Miami Beach for this long. — Michael Pirolo, Macchialina

What should people be excited about on the menu?

MP: I think it is just more of what we do. People can get excited for things like the lasagna being on the menu more often — and more of it. Maybe you don’t realize, but if you don’t have a walk-in refrigerator, where are you storing sheet trays of lasagna, right?

We also keep pushing the pasta games as hard as we can. We’re constantly adding shapes; we just added on gnocchetti (with braised escarole and speck) and tagliolini (al funghi). Like we did last summer, we’re planning on doing another Sunday Prime Rib dinner. Sunday sauce.

We want to do a patio pizza night where we’re making pizza. Like we turn the outside into a pizza shop, essentially. We had Neapolitan pizza when we first opened, and then we used to do Sunday pies a couple years ago, they were Grandma pies. This will be different, and maybe incorporating some crudo as well, like crudos and pies.

How about at the bar?

JP: Keep an eye out for the draft program that’s gonna happen. We have our beer that we partnered with J. Wakefield, called Pirolo Pilsner. They imported hops from Italy because we wanted an Italian-style pilsner. So that’s on draft. We’re planning to make our own vermouth, which will be on draft, which is really exciting.

Macchialina food spread
Photo courtesy of Macchialina
Macchialina food spread
Photo courtesy of Macchialina

What kind of programming are you planning on with all this new space?

JP: With a space like this, it allows us to do events that are a little bit smaller and more intimate. So now, we can turn the patio into something else on a given night, while inside is regular Macchialina. Or vice versa. For instance, this Wednesday, we’re already hosting our first wine dinner, and it’s 40 people inside, and we have the winemaker coming to town and he’s gonna host everybody. But outside would be regular service as usual.

Speaking of wine, what happened to the wine shop? That was one of the coolest parts of walking into Macchialina.

JP: So, our wine shop still exists, but it’s a little bit more of a “if you know, you know,” kinda thing. Anybody can come here at any time and buy any wine on our list to-go. It’s half the price to-go from what you see on the menu. Then, phase two, there’ll be more of a wine shop present once we finish construction.

So let’s talk about that next phase. What do you have on deck now that this big expansion is done?

JP: We can’t tell everything. Some of it has to remain a little bit of a secret and surprise. But the original Macchialina [space] will be its own concept. It started with Mike trying to perfect his perfect burger, the Big Macch, and that turned into this thing over the last couple years that when we announce it, we sell 120 burgers.

MP: In an hour!

JP: Like, it’s nuts! So we were like, “We need to do a concept where we can give people this burger all the time.” So it won’t be a burger shop, but the Big Macch burger will be on the menu all the time, so you can come and get it there.

Tell us about this new project in Little River.

JP: It’s called Bar Bucce, it’s gonna be a market, pizzeria, and wine shop. So the inside will be completely market and kitchen. Then out back will be about 120, 150 seats. During the day, it’s fast-casual, so you come in, you can order a slice of pizza, or a sandwich at the counter, and sit out back. At night, there’ll be a little bit more of a service.

It’s basically meant to cater to all the people that have homes up there. First-time home-buyers that maybe wanna host a dinner at home and want a higher-end product to buy. So think like eggplant caponata or salads in the deli case. You can get to-go meats and cheeses, all those sorts of things. It won’t just be Italian wine, it’ll be from all over — a really, really big wine selection and spirit selection that you can also take to-go. Or, you can sit on the patio and open a bottle there and enjoy it.

What neighborhoods are you into, food-wise, right now?

JP: The Beach. And I don’t even like to say “obviously” because I think within the industry right now, there’s a little bit of, like, talking about the Beach and how it’s kind of dead, or it’s not the same as it used to be. And I’m like, “the Beach is the Beach,” — people come here for the beach. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great going to the other neighborhoods and everybody should, but what I always say to people is that you stay on the beach, and then you go explore other neighborhoods.

MP: South Beach is always going to be South Beach. At least, we’re betting on it.

Any other parts of Miami doing cool things?

JP: Little River. And I’m biased to say that because we’re opening a place there as well, but if you see what’s going on there, there’s a lot of good restaurants opening, a lot of good bars, and wine shops. I think it’s a neighborhood to keep an eye on.

Also, it has a lot of local operators, locals that live there. It feels almost like when we first moved to the Beach, you know, so I think that’s an exciting thing.

You’ve been around over a decade now, which basically makes you an institution in Miami. How does that make you feel, succeeding for so long in a place where the restaurant industry is constantly changing?

MP: It’s funny you say “institution” because it’s hard to think of yourself that way, right? Like we’re every day here just pushing, trying to figure it out. I traveled to Rome with a buddy of mine, another chef also. We went to this restaurant called Del’s, a family-owned restaurant. Super busy, same menu for 50 years. We’re eating, and I’m like, “Look at this restaurant. I wish I had a restaurant like this.” And my friend says to me, “Mike, you have this, you know that, right?”

When we opened, we were one of the first small, privately-owned restaurants, you know, owner-operators. And then we started seeing more and more of those pop up. But a lot of those have gone away and we’re back to big groups, big hotels. So it gives us a tremendous sense of pride to be owner-operators in Miami Beach for this long. And, like, we know half the people that are in here right now, you know what I mean? And it just feels amazing.