Born in Queens, New York, but raised in Avellino, Italy, Chef Michael Pirolo (40) comes from a fiercely passionate food family. So much, in fact, that at the age of 21 he enrolled in culinary school in Torino, Italy; a formal education that led to apprenticeships at Michelin-starred establishments such as La Voglia Matta in Bologna and Café Groppi in Piemonte. After finishing his degree, he relocated to New York and changed tracks, immersing himself in French cuisine before relocating to Philadelphia to take the role of sous chef at Alfred Portale’s Striped Bass where he met his now-life and business partner Jen Chaefsky. A friendship turned to romance and when Pirolo had the opportunity to return to New York to take a post at Chris Lee’s Gilt at the Palace Hotel, Chaefsky accompanied him and the pair have been inseparable ever since.
During Pirolo’s time at Gilt, the restaurant earned two Michelin stars. Following his love of Italian cuisine and striking up a professional bond with celeb chef/restauranteur Scott Conant, Pirolo joined Conant’s Scarpetta restaurant in New York, then relocated to Miami to take the helm as chef de cuisine of Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There, Pirolo made a name for himself and rose through the media ranks as a rising star in Miami’s culinary community, an earnest, hard-working, careerist “chef’s chef.” A rare four-star review from The Miami Herald food critic Victoria Pesce Elliot helped elevate his profile and set the stage for Pirolo to move out on his own.
Pirolo’s first restaurant venture, The Saint Austere in Brooklyn continues to make a lasting impression in the highly-competitive New York restaurant-scape. A vision of the Pirolo family siblings – Fabrizio, John, Jacqueline, and Mike – they wanted the Saint Austere to be a casual restaurant with a focus on authentic Italian flavors, the freshest ingredients, and soulful preparations. Since its grand opening in 2011, The rustic Italian eatery has since evolved into a neighborhood staple for Brooklynites while still maintaining that self-styled, Old World European flair.
Shortly after, Pirolo went on to open Macchialina with partner Jen Chaefsky on Miami Beach’s Alton Road in 2012. The restaurant opened to much acclaim, earning the duo accolades including being ranked among the top “South Florida Food 50” by The Miami Herald (February 2015). In 2016, Pirolo was named a James Beard Award semi-finalist (Best Chef: South) and in 2018 Macchialina was selected as the best Italian restaurant in Florida by The Daily Meal. A tried and true Miami Beach standout, Macchialina’s rotating pasta specialties, intimate atmosphere and local cult following continue to garner the restaurant both local and national praise.
In spring of 2018, Pirolo was presented an opportunity to take his talents to Los Angeles with the help of managing partner John Kolaski of K2 Restaurants and partner, Giancarlo Pagani, of Pagani Projects. In the city of Angels, he rolled out Pirolo’s Panino on Melrose Avenue. The fast-casual, gourmet Italian sandwich shop grew out of a wildly well-received summertime pop-up concept at Macchialina. Still in the works is a plan for a delivery-only outpost of Pirolo’s Panino that will serve the greater downtown Los Angeles area, plus another restaurant concept in Santa Monica.