When it comes to home cooked food, nothing beats grandma's cooking. Except maybe a group of grandmothers from all over the world cooking in one restaurant! This is the case for Enoteca Maria, a restaurant in Staten Island, New York, whose kitchen is staffed entirely by nonnas (the Italian word for grandmothers) hailing from different countries.
The restaurant opened its doors 10 years ago, and started with just Italian grandmothers, after the owner, Jody Scaravella's, own heritage. It has since expanded to include nonnas from all over the globe like Algeria, Palestine, Czech Republic, Argentina, and Poland.
In a video for the Gothamist, Scaravella explained that the idea behind the restaurant was spawned after he lost his own mother and grandmother. "Seeing an Italian grandmother in the kitchen cooking was my idea of comfort," he said.
Every night, an Italian grandmother and one from elsewhere create a new menu and does the cooking. So in addition to an already scrumptious lineup of Italian dishes, you can get a cuisine from a nonna with a different culinary tradition.
Now with over 20 grandmothers all working in one kitchen, you'd think that things could get pretty chaotic. Scaravella joked that it things get "dicey" at times.
"Each one of these grandmothers feels like they're the boss, because in their particular family unit, they're at the top of that pyramid. So when you put all of these grandmothers that are all at the top in a room together, they all feel like they're in charge and they're all wondering what that other person is doing there," he told Gothamist.
Of course, friendly competition aside, the restaurant celebrates diversity.
“My idea is to celebrate the diversity instead of using that diversity to divide us,” Scaravella said. “It brings us all together.”
Now before you give all the incredible nonnas a standing ovation, you should also give credit to the one "nonno" the restaurant employs. This particular grandpa, Giuseppe Freya, is in charge of making the pasta! "He makes the raviolis, he makes the ricotta gnocchi, he makes tagliatelle, he makes the pasta sheets for our lasagna," Scaravella shared. "He's fantastic."
All of these sounds amazing, no? The only catch is reservation slots fill up months in advance, and a great lot of them are customers from different parts of the map.
"I regularly get phone calls from Australia, from England, and from Italy to book reservations. I'm always flattered by that," Scaravella said. "We get a lot of people who come from Manhattan, the ferry is right down the block. That's also very flattering, because there's a restaurant every twenty feet in Manhattan. Why are they coming here?"
Nothing makes you feel like home more than grandma's cooking, that's why.