Jacqueline Pirolo opened Macchialina, a rustic Italian restaurant, in 2012. During the pandemic, she expanded the space to include outdoor dining. She shared her challenges on keeping the restaurant staffed, as well as satisfaction in the continued growth of Lambrusco.
On Expanding Seating Space
This year has been challenging, but has been very good for us, especially in comparison to the year prior. I think a lot of people are itching to travel again and itching to go out. [But] a lot of people still are maybe unsure of international travel and the regulations, so we’re seeing a lot more domestic travel happen. I think a lot of people this year have pivoted and are continuing to work from home, which grants them a little bit more flexibility with traveling, so we’ve seen an increase.
We also were very fortunate: sort of the silver lining of this whole pandemic was that there was a hostel that was located behind Macchialina, and they unfortunately shuttered during the pandemic and decided not to reopen, and so our landlord loaned us the space to utilize for outdoor seating, because Macchialina was so small and only indoors.
It was going to be a challenge back in the height of it all, what we were going to do. The outdoor seating that was on loan to us has now become a permanent fixture. So, we’ve more than doubled the size of the restaurant 10 years in, which is an amazing thing to be granted because realistically 10 years ago, we would’ve never been able to fill this amount of seats.
On Staffing and Capacity
What’s been extremely challenging this year is staffing, which I’m sure you’ve heard from everywhere across the country. There finally seems, in this last month, to be a little bit of a pop and things start to be returning to a bit more normalcy, but it’s been extremely challenging to find people for any position, from management all the way down to servers, to bartenders, to support the dishwashers, to cooks. I mean, name it, any position in the restaurant, it’s been extremely challenging to fill. That’s really been what has hurt us.
There have been days, and even still now, where we have to close certain sections of the restaurant, or even call and cancel reservations, because we just don’t have enough staff to work it, and I don’t believe in stretching us too thin where we have an awful service or guests are given a subpar experience because we’re not properly staffed.
On Natural Wines
I think there’s a trend in general within the food and beverage industry, a little bit more of an emphasis about knowing what you are consuming, whether that be from a health standpoint, but also even just from a standpoint of supporting the small guy, right? So, I think the pandemic taught a lot of people to support small businesses and help these people survive, and I think it translates all the way through to wine.
I think people are more interested in knowing about the farmer and the farmer’s family, and knowing about their farming practices, and how better they’re supporting the environment and the Earth and what they’re doing to contribute to that. So, there’s just been overall a lot of talk with that in a lot of different industries, and it for sure translates to wine. I think, as with anything that trends, there’s just been a lot more talk about natural wine and farming biodynamically and organically, and so people are just more curious about it.
I mean, Lambrusco always continues to surprise me. You know, we’ve had Lambrusco on our by-the-glass list since we opened 10 years ago. Back then, it was like nobody knew what it was, right? Little by little, we would pour it for people as a little treat on us, and we’d get people behind it, but now it just seems like there’s way more people that know about it without us even telling them about it.
It’s just such a fun wine, and so versatile really. I don’t think a lot of people even necessarily realize that, with the different styles, and whether it’s Sorbara or Grasparossa, and the different pairings that are sort of possible there.
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