"I became a chef to offer guests what I missed eating," the James Beard Award semifinalist says.
Eight years after Pirolo debuted Macchialina in Miami Beach, his handmade small shells have made him a celebrity chef and have earned his Italian restaurant plenty of praise. New Times named the South Beach eatery Best Restaurant in South Beach in 2013 and 2018 and Best Italian Restaurant in 2017, and, for the second consecutive year, it has staked a spot on the calendar of events for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
On Saturday, February 22, during the festival's 19th-annual edition, Pirolo will gather about 25 attendees in his restaurant's dining room for a pasta-making master class and lunch.
The class, Pirolo says, transports him to his early childhood in Mercogliano, a small city in Italy's Campania region.
"I spent whole days watching my grandmother make pasta from scratch and listening to mother's angry screaming because of the mess in the kitchen," the chef says.
As was the case in his nonna's kitchen, no food processors are allowed in Pirolo's class. Presented with a bag filled with "00" flour, semolina, fresh ricotta, eggs, and black pepper, guests get to do the real work — beating, kneading, sprinkling flour into the dough as needed, shaping, and rolling — while sipping cocktails and wine. A soundtrack of classic hip-hop tunes will fill the room as Pirolo and Macchialina's chef de cuisine, John Kreidich, (the Dutch, the Alley) walk around while sharing tips and tricks on creating pasta from the combination of ingredients.
As with crafting any other dish or drink, specific criteria are used in making great pasta, Pirolo says. "I think having some patience is the biggest challenge, because it takes time to stretch the dough. They get very frustrated and want the results right away and don't roll it out thin enough. But it impresses me how quickly some people pick it up. Sometimes I think they missed their calling in life."
After class, guests will be invited to move to the bar area for light snacks. The afternoon will end with a two-course meal of antipasti and pasta.
Pirolo says he's proud to watch the festival turn 19 years old. "It started out so small, and now it's this big international event with dinners and tastings happening from Miami to West Palm Beach. It is such a busy week for the restaurant, but what I love most about it is that I get to pal around with chefs I haven't seen in a while and run into old friends who became chefs of their own restaurants."
As for the class, Pirolo says that, like last year, attendees will range from Macchialina regulars to out-of-towners and new customers.
"The class is set up for people to enjoy the process and have a fun day," he says. "We want it to become a tradition."
Pasta-Making Master Class & Lunch, hosted by Michael Pirolo. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at Macchialina, 820 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 305-534-2124; sobewff.org/macchialina.