The Goods: The Pubbelly mafia goes Italian with their latest creation, Macchialina.
Ambience: Exposed brick walls, black and red booths, and plenty of wood accents on the tables and ceiling create a cozy and warm environment. Plenty of chalkboards display the daily specials, some fun Italian foodie vocab and even the weekly music lineup (throwback night, reggae night, etc.) There is even a communal table (a small one) in the middle of the room.
The Grub: Italian fare with a pork twist. The lasagna features short ribs and taleggio ($16), is enough for two to share, and while it is served in typical lasagna style, it will fool your taste buds once you take a bite. The house signature dish - the Cavatelli Macchialina ($16) - features meatballs, porchetta and pecorino, all with a spicy kick that slowly surprises with each bite. (A must try on our list.) For starters the Arancini ($8) with tomato and mozzarella are three fried filled balls of goodness filled with risotto and the perfect way to open your dinner. The Insalata de Mare features clams, octopus, shrimp and tangerine, is a solid meal for one person but at $14 is too small for sharing. But the real surprise off the antipasti portion of the menu is the Tortino di Melenzane or eggplant parmigiano, a value at $11 and with a savory mix of simple flavors. Oher notables were the meat board ($26 with salami, prosciutto, mortadella and the hours made Testa), the Branzino (comes with head and tail, but body has been de-boned for $30), and a Margherita pizza ($12) that's the size of a small salad plate. The desserts (all $8) include a Tiramisu and Vanilla Panna Cotta, but the gem may be a Peach & Blueberry Struedel with pinenuts and whipped Marscapone.
Backstory: Chef Michael Pirolo, formerly of Scarpetta, was always a big fan of Pubbelly when it first opened - so much so he waited in line like the rest of us whenever he ate there. From the first visit he knew he wanted to work with the Pubbelly crew. So when the opportunity arose, he jumped at the chance... There will even be a very unique, Italian-based wine list that will feature Lambruscos as well as Orange Wines, described as white wines made for red wine drinkers (think white wine aroma with red wine tannins). No wines by the glass cost more than $12... There will be a select number of signature cocktails behind the bar, many featuring Prosecco or Aperol, all for $11... Unless you have a party of 8 or more, don't expect to make reservations via Open Table. As with the other Pubbelly locations (Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi and Barceloneta), it's first come, first served with names taken by pen on paper... For the first few weeks the restaurant will be serving dinner only, from 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday - Thursday, and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Verdict: Another must-eat-at restaurant by the Pubbelly gurus, combining neighborhood quaintness with innovative Italian fare.
Insalata di Mare