Pirolo’s Panino is the ultimate sandwich spot. The perfect fast-casual dining venue for succulent sandwiches, to-go orders, and delivery, Chef Michael Pirolo is sating appetites with the same style he sports at his upscale South Beach spot in Miami. There, his sophisticated restaurant Macchialina received a semi-finalist spot in the James Beard awards; here, Pirolo’s Panino serves up delicious sandwiches, plates, small bites, and dessert that can be consumed anywhere, including in-store at comfortable plank tables.
So, what are you dining on? Well, starters include cheese puffs, airy ricotta and mozzarella fritters served with house marinara. The puffs can also be made into a panini for a yummy vegetarian sandwich. Either way, they’re essentially a delicately crisp take on mozzarella sticks. Other starters include beef and pork meatballs and buffalo chicken wings served with homemade blue cheese and celery.
The chef’s menu encourages diners to “eat your greens” and with a simple Caesar Salad that includes sundried tomatoes, or a chef’s salad that mixes salami, provolone, olives, and crispy chickpeas in a house vinaigrette, it would be hard to refuse.
But then we come to the sandwiches, which are the heart and soul of the menu. The classic Chicken Parm is a mainstay, and the most popular on the menu, but the chef’s mother’s meatball recipe makes the Meatball Parm irresistible, too. There’s a crispy eggplant that includes a lush garlic white bean spread, broccoli rabe, sundried tomato, and sharp provolone; and for the true carnivore there’s The Godfather, with salami, honey ham, coppa, sharp provolone, pickled eggplant, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and a house vinaigrette. Another favorite of Melrose diners is the Italian Dip, which takes house-roasted Italian beef and tops it with salsa verde and caramelized onions, and then serves it up au jus. Diners can get an in-house combo of panino, chips, and a drink.
Want more than a sandwich? Then enjoy a full plate meal, such as Chicken Limone, dished out with roasted potatoes and broccoli rabe, and available in serving sizes for one or two. Other full-plate choices include Chicken Parm, Chicken Cutlet, or Baked Macaroni, which is penne with marinara sauce and Parmesan. But do save room for the classic Italian cannoli made with chocolate and pistachio or the traditional Nocciolino made with Lamill coffee, and, of course, hazelnuts.
Pirolo notes that at his restaurant, “We make all our breadcrumbs. We brine the meat. We roast everything in-house.” Fresh and homemade is the order of the day! The true tastiness is in the details. Check out the salsa verde served with the Italian Dip sandwich—it combines a zesty mix of anchovies, parsley, hard-boiled egg, capers, and lemon juice. The Chicken Parm, and the Meatball Parm, are both made with a classic mix of cheeses that the chef refers to as “PFM” (Parmesan, Fontina, and marinara sauce). And then there’s the ciabatta bread used to make all Pirolo’s sandwiches: carefully sourced, it’s a perfect mix of crisp and savory.
Pirolo’s Melrose spot is the first in several planned locations in the LA area for the chef, and one that shouldn’t be missed. “I always cook stuff I want to eat,” Pirolo says. And judging by the steady stream of diners at the small restaurant, it’s not only Pirolo who wants to eat it. “I’m just going to do what I like and what tastes good to me,” he asserts. And that’s more than good enough for his guests on Melrose Ave. Now, that’s Italian!