In honor of October being Italian American Heritage Month, INDULGE gathered five Miami tastemakers of Italian descent at an Italian restaurant in South Beach. We outfitted them head-to-toe in Italian designer clothing and let the limoncello flow. The camera’s flash lit up the dining room in Macchialina as flashes of lightning outside ushered in a downpour. Storms only added to the sultry atmosphere of this private dinner, where the sweet life was in full swing. Hungry for more? Click here for exclusive recipes from Macchialina chef-owner Mike Pirolo.
1. Danilo Di Michele: Founder and President of DDM Advertising
What’s in your closet? “Only Armani. I love the style. Clean and classic, less is more. You don’t need all the shine.”
What’s your style? “I like vintage. Vintage accessories for me are mandatory. It brings a connection to the past.”
Why do you gravitate toward handcrafted furniture? “I worked with designers in fashion and realized it’s too fast. A piece of furniture takes at least a year to produce. To produce a jacket takes a day.”
Fun Fact: Di Michele travels home to Italy every two months, where he has offices in Milan and Verona and a house on a lake.
2. Lauren Gnazzo: Principal of Luxury PR Firm Gnazzo Group
What’s next for fashion in Miami? “Miami is definitely catching up to the other major fashion capitals of the world, putting itself on the radar of major global houses. Louis Vuitton chose only eight cities to host its recent Supreme x Louis Vuitton pop-up shops. Miami’s Design District boutique was chosen. That’s big.”
What’s your fashion philosophy? “Fashion should express something. I like to wear a statement earring or something with pop to tie together an outfit. I’m all about that crazy earring!”
Does your Italian heritage inform your style? “Italians value family and tradition, which are both very important to me. I always take good care of fashion and jewelry pieces that have been handed down through generations and incorporate them into my everyday looks.”
3. Mike Pirolo: Chef and Owner of Macchialina Italian Restaurant
On why his restaurant is kind of a big deal: “We’re unique to Miami – it’s chef-driven but still affordable. We could have the CEO of the Fontainebleau at one table and the butcher and the valet at another table.”
On his Italian mother: “Our meatballs at Macchialina are very close to my mom’s recipe – but she says they’re nothing like hers! It’s a friendly competition.”
On working with Jen Chaefsky, his business and life partner: “The first year, I thought, ‘What did we do?!’ But now it’s amazing. You can’t put a price tag on knowing you’re getting the truth when you work with your wife.”
Fun Fact: He and Chaefsky live two blocks from their restaurant. They met while working at The Striped Bass in Philadelphia. He was a line cook, she was the manager.
4. Jen Chaefsky: Managing Partner of Macchialina (aka, she runs the show)
On Italian cooking: “My Dad’s side is all Italian. My Polish side had Italian neighbors, so my grandmother learned how to make red sauce and meatballs from them. She put a whole onion in her sauce because her neighbor said, ‘Add an onion.’”
On what’s next for Italian food in Miami: “Miami is at the forefront of lighter cuisine because everyone is in less clothing. Italian cuisine is lightening up.”
On her home kitchen: “We didn’t use the kitchen for the first four years. Now we cook – one takes the lead and the other is the sous chef.”
Fun Fact: For Mike’s birthday, Jen bought him a wood-fired pizza oven for their yard. While customers line up for the restaurant’s acclaimed Roman pizza served only on Sunday evenings, the couple hosts friends and family at home.
5. Martina Borgomanero Basabe: Heiress to La Perla Lingerie Empire, Ambassador of Italian Style and Culture
Why Miami? “I was only supposed to stay a year, but I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. The city gives a lot to the people here: the energy, the climate, the beaches. People here are very happy!”
How does your Italian fashion sense fit into Miami? “It’s very difficult to dress in Miami. The warmth would bring you to dress very summery, but this is a city, so you can’t just wear a hippie dress all the time! I just wear what I feel. If I want to wear a boot in the summer, I will. I don’t like to be limited.”
What’s next for Italians here? “We keep coming! A lot of Italians are opening restaurants for Italians – the traditional, simple food and the regional specialties.”
Fun Fact: Martina dotes on her toy Australian Shepherd, SodaPop. He’s named for the character in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, because, she says, “SodaPop Curtis was the best-looking thing I’ve seen!”
Photography by Nick Garcia / Wardrobes by Elysze Held / Wardrobe Assistance by Dani Parets / Hair and Makeup by Vicky Mejia and Zorayda Bravo / Shot on Location at Macchialina Restaurant in South Beach