Jacqueline Pirolo of Macchialina on hoarding wine and "Nun Chic" footwear
So, raise a glass with us and Meet Your Local!
From Campania to New York City to Miami, Jacqueline Pirolo wears many hats as the partner and wine director of Miami’s beloved Macchialina. The youngest of four (and the only girl!), “Jackie” directed day-to-day operations at her family’s restaurant, The Saint Austere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before moving to Miami in 2016 to work alongside her business partner and brother, Chef Mike Pirolo, and his wife Jennifer Chaefsky. In 2016, Macchialina (established in 2012) had already transitioned from the Beach’s “New kid on the block” Italian joint to its neighborhood gem status. Now, under her beverage expertise, the restaurant has evolved into a full-blown Miami classic. Today, Macchialina isn’t just an essential Italian Miami restaurant, it’s an essential Miami restaurant, which has consistently served delicious food in a no-frills setting with an incredibly diverse wine list. Whether you drink New World or Old World, Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc, Nebbiolo or Cabernet, there’s plenty of Italian wine here to comfort or surprise any palate.
We visited Jackie on a crisp January morning at Macchialina over a glass of delicious skin-contact white wine, for a quick fire round of questions before diving into the gritty stuff …
Allegra Angelo: Are you ready…. Pizza or Pasta?
Jacqueline Pirolo: Pasta!
AA: Bordeaux or Burgundy?
AA: Red wine or White wine?
JP: White wine.
AA: Best pizza in Miami?
JP: It’s a toss-up for me! I love Lucali, it’s a specific style of pizza and a great addition to Miami. But Stanzione 87 in Brickell is phenomenal, and they are also in the Citadel in Little River. And Ashley’s wine list at Stanzione is amazing.
AA: Best cocktail spot in Miami?
AA: Sangiovese or Nebbiolo?
AA: Milan or Rome?
AA: Politics or Religion?
AA: Favorite time of the day?
JP: 8:30 p.m. — I’m a night person … Something happens to me at that time — I’m awake, I’m with it … There’s some nights I’ll stay up until 2:00 a.m. working. I’m an easily distracted person, so at 2:00 a.m. nothing is around to distract me — no emails, no texts, no music — I can get a lot done.
JP: This is one of the rare wines from Walter de Batté. He is a small, passionate winemaker in the town of Riomaggiore, which is in Cinque Terre in Liguria. This is called “Altrove,” it’s an orange wine by nature, a skin contact wine, a blend of 70% Vermentino and Bosco, and the remaining Marsanne and Roussanne.
AA: Wait, really? There is Marsanne and Roussanne, Rhône grapes, in Liguria?
JP: Yes, yes, yes.
AA: Wow, how did you find this? How much is it on the wine list?
JP: A good friend of mine who works for the importer DNS brought this wine to my attention. He called me up and was like, “You have to try this.” I said the same thing about the blend, “Wait, what?” I tasted it, loved it, and we added it to the list. Only 1,600 bottles were made (less than 150 cases), and it sells for $170 on the wine list.
AA: Wow, it’s crazily aromatic. It has this silky peach fuzz thing which is very appealing and texturally it’s very soft on the palate. And it’s not bitter to me, which I usually find to be a fault of some orange wines. I love it!
JP: Yeah, it’s that salinity of Liguria, these very steep slopes by the sea, which make it texturally appealing, almost mouthwatering.
AA: At $170 per bottle, how do you sell this wine or what type of drinker do you sell this to?
JP: Well, every wine on our list we also offer by the half bottle, using the Coravin system. Because of the higher price point and unusual profile, this is something we sell a lot of by the half bottle. It’s for people that are super interested in wine and want to try something new.
(Get to Macchialina now and try this wine by the half bottle for $85. You’ll be totally surprised — in a good way!)
AA: I could see this with something salty? What’s your take on orange wines with food?
JP: Yes, I could see this with capers or an octopus that’s charred with caper and lemon. With orange wines I go back and forth; I kind of have a love-hate relationship with them and there are only a handful of producers who make them very well, like Gravner of Friuli. The price points for these wines are higher, but they’re special. For me, I like to share orange wines. If I was dining with another person, I don’t know if we’d drink a whole bottle of this, but if I was dining in a group of 4, and we each enjoyed a glass of this, I’d be very happy.
AA: From a guest’s perspective, the interest in orange wine over the last decade seems to go in loops. I see interest in them, then I don’t, then the interest pop ups again – it seems erratic. What’s your insight on that, is it loopy?
JP: Agreed. We’ve had orange wines on our menu since we opened; we had Radikon by the glass seven years ago. We’ve always worked with orange wines; we’ve always supported them. The interest goes in waves — there’s no explanation for it. Just last week, we had a guest visiting from Atlanta and all he wanted to do was talk about orange wines, and at the table next to him were big wine drinkers but couldn’t care less about orange wine. Again, they’re not for everyone, but there are now more styles out there which are more user-friendly, due to less maceration, less skin contact.
AA: With the half bottle program how do you keep wines fresh and rotating so you’re not sitting on “open” wine?
JP: Anything that has been “tapped” by the Coravin we also offer as specials by the glass or use it for a wine pairing. So, we’re constantly moving stock and keeping things fresh.
(Pro tip – ask for the “By the Glass” specials!)
AA: Do you have an embarrassing wine service/bottle story? I’ve surely racked up some embarrassing, bottle horror stories over the years working on the floor.
JP: Well, recently on New Year’s Eve, I asked my staff to open a few bottles of Champagne before the first seating. The bottles exploded, Champagne everywhere — all over the tables, chairs, the ceiling. Mind you, we had guests lined up, waiting outside the door. It was a mad rush to get everything cleaned up, but at least it didn’t get on anyone.
AA: In Italian wine, what region are you pumped up on?
JP: Friuli, Alto Adige … pick one? I’m excited about Friuli right now; I love the whites, I love the reds, I love everything coming from this region. When I sit down here and pick a bottle of wine, I gravitate towards Friuli. Actually, it’s a region that I’ve never visited! I’ve been to a lot of regions in Italy, but Friuli is not one of them.
AA: Obviously you don’t drink Italian wine all the time, so what region outside of Italy do you like to drink? And what regions do you want to explore more of?
JP: For sure France — Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy — that’s a no-brainer, but Greece is fascinating to me right now; there are so many Greek wines that are phenomenal and so affordable.
AA: Pick a couple of Italian producers who inspire you right now?
JP: Cristiana Tiberio in Abruzzo. She is amazing, the wines are amazing, and they are priced very well. I have a bottle of their top wine “Fonte Canale” at home which I’m trying to save for a few years. Edi Kante of Friuli is inspiring to me because he was very into the orange wine movement, then took a step back, and altered his focus to making indigenous varietals in a very pure form, without skin contact.
AA: What’s your favorite thing about selling wine on the floor, being a sommelier?
JP: When a guest gives you some parameters, like price-point or style, yet ultimately puts his or her trust in you. Especially having the half bottle program, it allows me to be creative and take the guest on a journey through wine – it’s immensely rewarding. We’re very fortunate here at Macchialina, we have loyal guests because we take the pretension out of wine. Our wine list can be a bit intimidating, and we realize that. If someone chooses a wine that he or she doesn’t like, no problem, we’ll open up something else. We want our guests to drink something they love, and we’re here to guide them, no hard feelings.
AA: What are some positive changes you’ve made since you’ve come on-board?
JP: You’re asking me to go against the fam! (Laughter) I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Well, when I started, we weren’t an all-Italian wine list. There was a small box of French varietals and a little of Spain, which felt like a comfort blanket in case someone asked for those more familiar grapes. The non-Italian wine was one of the first things that I eliminated because for the size of our list — small to medium — we couldn’t properly represent the diversity of Italian wine. Staff education is another thing that is very important to me. We do “Wine of the Week” — every week one of our employees presents a wine to the staff. We also offer all the wines on the list at our cost to our staff which encourages them to constantly taste and explore. It’s not about getting hammered, it’s about appreciating and learning. We’ve built a strong, dynamic wine culture amongst the team here and it gives them the tools to sell bottles and engage with guests about wine. And it’s not about always upselling, it’s about observing the guest and finding out what he or she needs to take the experience to the next level. I don’t need order-takers, it’s about curating people’s experiences.
AA: Ok, best shoes for working in a restaurant? I’m still looking for the perfect closed-toe pair that are not sneakers.
JP: I just bought these old lady shoes. (Jackie lifts her feet to show me.)
AA: Oh my God! What are those? And why are you wearing them? (I can’t stop laughing, by the way.)
JP: I swear by these. I bought them on Amazon.
AA: Wait, did you know they looked like this? These are old lady shoes, Jackie!
JP: I knew this is what they looked like; I swear they are SO comfortable. The brand is SAS, they come in narrow, wide, and regular fit, and they have this nice little heel which is soft. My family wants to have an intervention with me and tell me that I’m not allowed to wear them outside of the restaurant; I’ve been wearing them everywhere! They’re like “Jackie, you cannot.” I’m like, “No … I CAN.”
AA: Is this your first pair?
JP: Yes, this is a recent obsession, I just got them. A friend of mine told me I should call it “Nun Chic,” and I like it. This look is very “Nun Chic.”
(Want Jackie’s “Nun Chic” style? Shop here.)
AA: I love it, we need to do a women’s clothing line for sommeliers, #NunChic.
AA: I never drink this much wine during the day, by the way!
JP: It’s going down easy; it’s that texture.
AA: Ok, bringing it back from “Nun Chic,” what’s one thing that you’ve learned about your brother, Chef Mike Pirolo, since working with him in a day-to-day capacity? Something that you didn’t know about him before …
JP: Timing. He has one speed during service, whether there’s one ticket on the board or 14 tickets on the board, his energy is constant. It’s “Go, go, go, go, go,” all the time. It’s an amazing intensity and he encourages us to sync with it. But when he’s in that mode, I’ve had to learn how to navigate it. So, maybe the best time to ask him about putting my favorite dish back on the menu is not during service, but at the end of the night when he’s a bit more relaxed, over a glass of wine.
AA: Favorite wine hack? Like trick or tool for saving or serving wine? Can be anything.
JP: I don’t know if this is necessarily a “hack,” but I’ve been saving inexpensive young wines, putting them away for a couple of years, to see how they age. When you let these young wines sit for an extra year or two in the bottle, they become more complex and delicious. Again, nothing expensive, just little everyday wines I’ve been stashing.
AA: That’s how I feel about rosé wine, so much better after a solid year in the bottle! So, you’re a hoarder? I have a pathetic collection of wine at my house, I’m too impatient to cellar wine.
JP: Yes, I’m a hoarder. I’ll still go to the store and buy wine because I’m like, “Tonight is not a special enough occasion to drink this wine!” I’m trying to get better about opening up the wines I have and enjoying the moment of just sharing a bottle.
We couldn’t agree more! A big thanks to Jackie for spending a morning with us, sharing a glass of delicious wine, good tips, and many laughs. Stay tuned for the next “Meet Your Local” as we get a lesson in the kitchen from one of Miami’s top chefs.