Jacqueline Pirolo was born in the Campanian city of Avellino and grew up with three older brothers. The siblings all worked in restaurants until brother Fabrizio suggested they start working for themselves. They opened Saint Austere in Brooklyn in 2011, and a year later Jacqueline joined her brother Michael in Miami Beach to open Macchialina. She manages an eclectic list of about 100 Italian wines, all of which she’ll sell by the half-bottle, then use the rest for the by-the-glass program.
Why do you think it’s so important to have all of your wines available by the half-bottle?
Having an all-Italian wine list can be a bit intimidating; it’s a vast country with so many regions and varieties that even people who have a wine background can be intimidated. I thought that offering wines by the half-bottle would take some fear out of popping the cork on something a customer may not like. Also, some couples come in and want to try a lot of things. This allows people to be more adventurous, and they can create their own little wine pairing for the evening. Every bottle we open becomes part of the half-bottle program, for half the price of the original bottle. Or we will sell individual glasses for a quarter of the bottle price. We use the Coravin system to preserve wines over $60; the rest we know we’ll sell through. Regulars know to ask, “What do you have Coravined tonight?” So while our by-the-glass sales number looks small [14 percent of total wine sales], it’s actually not, because we’re selling a lot of half bottles and glasses through this program. A lot of people will end up getting the second half of the bottle, maybe six or seven times out of ten, even though I almost prefer to sell them by the glass because I like to let more people try new things. The program also raises price points for us, because a glass in this program is a quarter of the bottle price [and the wines by the bottles are typically fancier than the standard by-the-glass offerings]. At first we started with just a handful of wines because I was afraid there would be a lot of waste, but there really wasn’t, and the staff got so behind it that we extended it to include all of the wines except a few sparkling.
You report that your biggest new success was a sparkling wine: the Tiberi Umbria Il Musticco Pet-Nat at $65.
I really think the success of this is due to our staff. We had a tasting of it and everybody’s eyes lit up. Many had never had anything like it. [It’s a blend of gamay del Trasimeno, a.k.a. grenache, and ciliegiolo]. We offer this one by half bottle and it’s a great food wine for charcuterie or the antipasti trio; it has body but also effervescence that cuts through anything fatty.
And speaking of reddish sparkling wines, you’re also working with a Lambrusco in a can.
Yes, Scarpetta’s Frico Lambrusco. It’s a new thing to me, but it is really delicious, and how genius—it’s coming out of a can, so it’s really crisp and fresh, and already in an individual-sized serving. Now we’re doing a “Bucket of Brusco,” which is three glasses and three cans of the Lambrusco in a bucket.
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