Scarpetta's Michael Pirolo and Nina Compton, Incoming & Outgoing Chefs, Cook Up New Menu Items (Part Two)

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Pirolo and Compton worked together at Scarpetta for almost four years.
Two of the plates I tried while chatting with with Scarpetta's new chef de cuisine Nina Compton (who just took over the helms this week), and outgoing chef de cuisine Michael Pirolo (who is moving on to Macchialina Taverna Rustica) were new pasta compositions that chef Compton has created for the menu: First one sampled was tagliolini with suckling pig sugo ($24).

Michael explains that "it takes three days to make." They brine, and then braise the entire pig (photo of brining pigs follows), take the meat off the bone, and toss it with perfectly cooked strands of yolk-colored pasta, broccoli rabe, garlic, pork cracklins, and juice from the pork.

"Now that she's doing dishes like this I'm glad I'm leaving," jokes Michael, "because she would have taken my job anyway."

Pirolo and Compton have been working with Conant for just over four years -- when they started, the restaurant was still "a shell." They have surely developed a chemistry together, both personally and in the way they can anticipate each other's moves behind the line. That was clear in yesterday's post.

Michael seems like a fairly low-key guy, which is likely why you don't read about him as much as you do other important Miami chefs. He was born in New York, grew up in a town outside of Naples, then returned to New York; in his his twenties, it was back to Italy -- three years in the Piedmont, Lombardy, and Bologna areas. Before Scarpetta, Pirolo worked at Gilt, one of New York City's finest restaurants. "Prior to that I was in Philadelphia with Stephen Starr at Striped Bass." [Since closed.]

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Lee Klein
Tagliolini with suckling pig sugo and broccoli rabe.
The outgoing chef is happy to be tackling a new challenge at Macchialina Taverna Rustica. "It will be a little bit more rustic, and the setting is definitely going to be more casual," he says, "but at the end of the day, Italian food is about using local ingredients. Then he added something surprising. "I sometimes say that if you took the pastas off this menu (Scarpetta's), it's not necessarily an Italian restaurant. We try to cook with the spirit of Italy, not necessarily in the true traditional sense. Some dishes yes, but on others we get pretty creative."

When asked about the opening date for Macchialina, he says with confidence that "it will be the first week of May." Still, new horizons and all, at the time of this interview Michael admitted a certain wistfulness about leaving. "I've been putting off getting my books and knives out of here."

The books must be many. "Every month we get a delivery -- like $200, $300 worth of books," says Michael, "and we compete to see who gets the books first." "I read a lot," Nina says when I ask about favorite cookbooks. "Scott's book (Scott Conant's New Italian Cooking), and The French Laundry Cookbook is a staple. Mike and I follow a website called Ideas in Food, which is great. They do really different things every day." "We follow Sean Brock and his two restaurants in South Carolina (McCrady's, Husk), the 11 Madison book (11 Madison Park: The Cookbook)...

When asked if they draw inspiration from these readings, both answer, more or less in unison, "Big time."

Location Info

Scarpetta

4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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