3.5 stars for exquisite Italian at South Beach's Macchialina

First it was a bacon-themed gastro-pub, then a fusion sushi den. After that came a Catalan-focused tapas bar. And now, Italian? Those Pubbelly boys are at it again. Macchialina, the latest addition to their multinational South Beach empire, is a hub of exquisite flavors in a cacophony of cool.

The sliver of a bar is perpetually crowded, and with good reason. The bartender puts out lovely drinks—inventive ones, too, since he is working with a beer and wine license. The tattooed, long-haired waiters are somehow clean-cut at the same time. And, charming, of course. As is the food. Michael Pirolo, former chef de cuisine at Scarpetta, performs as well with traditional fare as he does with riffs on it.

Ambience: The name? A mash-up of macchia (mark or spot) and maialina (piglet). The space? Sylvano’s (happily relocated to Liberty Avenue) has been transformed with brick walls, over-sized chalkboards and red vinyl chairs that are tucked beneath glossy pine tables arranged tightly to fit in the clamoring crowds.

What Worked

  • A zingy capri classic cocktail with cocchi Americano and muddled cucumber with mint
  • A thoughtfully curated wine selection
  • Green olives in a zesty tomato sauce flecked with red pepper flakes
  • Fantastic grilled sourdough, from local bakers Le Parisienne
  • “Light as a breeze” escarole and pistachio salad
  • Hearty late-summer salad with delectable rabbit meat
  • Rich polenta blending Parmigiano-Reggiano; house-made pork sausage with fennel, cinnamon, nutmeg and peperoncino; & sweet baby cipollini onions 
  • Broccoli di rabe – warm stalks with tiny crumbles of hard-boiled egg and a garlicky, Parmigiano dressing
  • Interesting but not yet excellent eggplant “tortino” – a golf-ball-sized packet of buffalo mozzarella, smoked mozzarella and fresh ricotta wrapped in parchment-like sheets of eggplant and sprinkled with crunchy dehydrated cheese
  • Polpettine – mini meatballs made with rich veal cheek and pork in a pale but powerful tomato sauce
  • “Bright as a winter sunrise” house-made taglioni with abalone mushroom slices
  • Spaghetti alla vongole with peppery arugula
  • Divine cavatelli with baby meatballs, porchetta and plenty of zippy pecorino
  • Transporting pizza – Italian-style rounds of dough crackling in the center and puffy along the edges with slivers of pancetta, daubs of Gorgonzola and a fried egg
  • A lovely branzino with tiny bits of rock shrimp and baby mussels
  • Mussels in a bowl of white wine and cherry tomatoes
  • Tiramisu in a mason jar topped with hair-on-your-chest granita
  • A tart with buttery crust and sour cherry filling



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