Asheville Dining Scene is Thriving

by Dryridgeinn on April 14, 2014

A new restaurant, Macchialina Taverna Rustica, is slated for the former Windsor Hotel building on the corner of Broadway and Walnut streets, downtown.

The upscale Italian (but rustic-style) eatery is the second for Florida restaurateurs Jennifer Chaefsky and chef/owner Michael Pirolo. The duo own another restaurant in Miami. Their Asheville eatery could be open as early as September, they said.

In Miami, the original Macchialina restaurant got an “excellent” rating from The Miami Herald and a nod as one of the “Seven Best Restaurants of 2012 in Miami” by Miami New Times.

Chef Pirolo was born in Queens, N.Y., and raised between the city and Avellino, Italy, where his grandmother taught him how to cook. He also studied at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Torino and worked at Michelin-rated establishments, La Voglia Matta in Bologna and cafe Groppi in Piemonte. Chaefsky has her own pedigree, working for restaurateurs such as Alfred Portale and Masaharu Morimoto.

According to co-owner Chaefsky, the duo targeted Asheville for Macchialina’s expansion after visiting the area several times.

“The first time we went, we fell in love with it — and we had no intention of falling in love like that,” she said by phone from Florida on Friday. “I thought, what a great fit our restaurant would be in that town. We’re every simpatico with everything you’re doing there, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Chaefsky said Asheville’s local and organic sensibilities fit with her restaurant’s focus. “So many places all over the country, they say it,” she said. “But you guys live and breathe it — and have the resources in the area to do it.”

Miami is not as active in the local food movement, said Chaefsky. “None of the fisheries down in the Keys will deliver up here with regularity,” she said.

Still, she said, they’ve found ways in Miami to have a local and sustainable menu, and they purchase from a local forager there.

Chaefsky said the new Macchialina menu will be adapted to fit the mountains, though some signature items from the Florida restaurant will stay the same. Pirolo makes his pasta by hand using flour flown in from Italy, and that won’t change, said Chaefsky. Nor will the wood-fired pizzas. But the toppings will differ.

“We use yellowtail here, but up there, we’ll use trout,” she said. “We’re going to reach out to the local farmers.”

Chaefsky said the restaurant will seat between 95-120 and will have a private dining area for wine events in an expansive space that wraps around the lobby of the Windsor in a horseshoe shape, with doors on either side.

“A good portion of that space will go to a big open kitchen and installing a wood-burning oven,” said Chaefsky. “That takes up a lot of space.”

Chaefsky said that, in a perfect world, she hopes to split her time between Miami and Asheville, though she and Pirolo will be here for the first six months of the restaurant’s opening. She added that she’s happy to be a part of a food scene that is, by all accounts, growing quickly.

“It’s in USA Today as an up-and-coming food city and, from our experience and all of the places we’ve tried, you’re on par,” she said.

“The food just knocks your socks off. It’s great to be a part of a healthy and well-respected dining crowd that’s holding up the bar.”

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