With the South Beach Wine & Food Festival taking place at the end of February, it’s an exciting time for our monthly culinary series Chef Collective. This month, Faena has chosen prominent Miami-based Chef Michael Pirolo to collaborate on a menu with Pao restaurant’s Executive Chef Paul Qui.
Pirolo is the chef owner of Macchialina, a South Beach trattoria with rustic yet sophisticated Italian fare that’s been praised by critics and spawned a loyal following of locals and in-the-know travelers. The casual neighborhood eatery was named Best Restaurant in 2013 by the Miami New Times and garnered a 3½ star Excellent rating from The Miami Herald. The decorated chef was also a 2016 James Beard Semifinalist in the Best Chef South category.
Born in New York, but raised in Avellino, Italy, Pirolo comes from a fiercely passionate food family. Chef Pirolo’s fondest memories are of his grandmother preparing handmade gnocchi at her home in the Campania Region of Southern Italy, where he used to tend to her sun-dried tomatoes. His mother was also a great cook. Pasta was a staple in their home and he still uses his mother’s pickled eggplant recipe.
The dishes that resonate with me from my childhood have had a profound effect on how I cook today.
– Michael Pirolo
Chef Pirolo is no stranger to Michelin-starred establishments, having apprenticed at La Voglia Matta in Bologna, Café Groppi in Piemonte, and Chris Lee’s Gilt at the Palace Hotel in New York, which earned two Michelin stars during his tenure. An opportunity to helm Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau hotel landed Pirolo in Miami Beach, where he was noted as a rising star and lauded by the culinary community as a hard-working, careerist “chef’s chef.”
After making a name for himself, Pirolo was able to strike out on his own to open Macchialina with his partner Jen Chaefsky. Local in-season produce dictates the menu, which includes creative twists on traditional Italian dishes. Pirolo serves a combination of antipasti and pasta, as well as pizzas, salads and larger entrees like bone-in rib eye, branzino and pork chop Milanese. The restaurant’s motto is: “Do the right thing,” which Chef Pirolo seems to have mastered judging by the line that regularly stretches out the door.