First Bites

Macchialina: The Pubbelly Team Is at It Again

See also "Scarpetta's Michael Pirolo Talks" and "Chefs Cook Up New Menu Items."

Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, and Barceloneta, all on the same stretch of 20th Street in the Sunset Harbour area of South Beach, set the standard for contemporary SoBe neighborhood restaurants that locals can enjoy and afford.

Their latest effort, in tandem with Michael Pirolo, is Macchialina Taverna Rustica -- which opened this week after numerous permit delays. The Pubbelly formula is in full effect: light brick walls, chalkboards with specials, a bar dispensing craft beers and wines, good music, an informal vibe, and excellent fare -- the theme at this venue being rustic Italian.

They nabbed the perfect chef for this sort of food. Pirolo, after all, was chef de cuisine at Scarpetta, where he worked for four years before stepping down in early April. I spoke with Michael during his last week at Scarpetta and asked him how Macchialina would differ from that wonderful Fontainebleau restaurant. He said, "It will be a little bit more rustic, and the setting is definitely going to be more casual." And that's just what it is.

I tried a sampling of dishes there last night. What follows are photos and a few quick impressions.

We started with a margherita pizza ($12). The crust should serve as notice to other pizzerias around town: Add salt and it will taste a lot better than just baked flour and water. Seriously -- great crust, with the "sauce" being a purée of fresh tomatoes, like you might find atop a Spanish pan con tomate. The cheese is mozzarella di bufala.

Very creamy polenta -- like corn custard -- with delicious sausage, cippolini onions, and a sprinkling of chives ($12):

Broccolini al cesare, a twist on the caesar salad, with anchovy undertones and crisped garlic ($9):

Agnolotti del plin ($16), a simpler rendition of the lamb-based dish served at Scarpetta. The fresh egg wrappings of the agnolotti contain a mix of meats, tossed with cippolini onions in a slightly thickened broth:

Is the tiramisu ($8) the best in town? Could be. I don't usually order this particular dessert, but the waiter was enthusiastic about it. You can see how it's served -- on top is crumbled chocolate and espresso granita, the latter being especially wow-worthy:

What we didn't try: Grilled filone bread, fried olives, a couple of other such bar snacks, most of the starters, four other pastas, two other pizzas, plates of salumi, raw bar selections, and the three main plates: branzino, pork chop Milanese, and a 22-ounce bone-in rib eye.

But we'll be back.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein