When it comes to tasty food, nothing beats grandma’s cooking! Well, except maybe more grandmas cooking in the same kitchen, which is exactly what goes on at Staten Island’s Enoteca Maria, a charming restaurant that employs grandmas from various parts of the world, instead of professional chefs.
Enoteca Maria owner Jody Scaravella says that he came up with the idea of placing grandmothers in a restaurant kitchen about 12 years ago, after suffering a series of tragic losses. His grandmother, his mother and his sister had passed away within a few years of each other, and the idea of having an Italian grandmother in the kitchen just felt comforting to him. He got his first cooks by posting an ad in the paper seeking ‘Italian housewives to cook regional dishes’. “I was still building the restaurant then, so I asked them to come to my place to cook instead — I live in the neighborhood. And they came with dishes, and their husbands and a few grandchildren they were looking after for the day. The whole thing was like a Fellini movie,” Scaravella remembers.
But that was only the beginning. These days, the unique New York restaurant has a rotating staff of grandmothers from around 30 different places around the world, including Palestine, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Nigeria and Algeria. They are known as ‘nonnas’ – Italian for ‘grandmas’ – and take turns in cooking traditional recipes from their respective culture, offering patrons the chance to experience new and exciting dishes virtually every night.