Rida Ali, age 14

Several of the nonnas who cook for Enoteca Maria. Credit: Courtesy of Enoteca Maria / Photo by Nichols Fevelo

 

Instead of professional chefs, a restaurant on Staten Island employs grandmas, exploring the diversity of their different cultures. The restaurant, Enoteca Maria, was founded and is owned by Jody Scaravella. Scaravella opened the restaurant after losing his mother and sister and sought the comfort of his grandmother’s home cooked food and culture.

Enoteca Maria, originally offered exclusively Italian cuisine but has been serving food from countries around the world since 2015.  The grandmas that come to cook with Scaravella come from countries such as Greece, Pakistan, Japan, and Syria. “So many of the people who came and celebrated our Italian nonnas were not themselves Italian,” Scaravella told Yes! Magazine, “I wanted this to be inclusive.”

Customers that walk into Enoteca Maria feel a sense of home and nostalgia. Mary McLaughlin had traveled from Long Island to enjoy the home-cooked meals. “It’s more personal,” she told the New York Times, “And it leads to a variety of items on the menu.”

Enoteca is unique because it doesn’t have the same menu every day. Each day, a grandmother from a different culture cooks for the customers, and each day the menu changes based on what they decide to serve.  

If you were to look at the menu for April 22, for example, one of the dishes that the nonna of the night, Rosa from Peru, has prepared Ceviche Mixto.  It’s a South American dish made of seafood such as pickled shrimp, baby octopus, and cod mixed with an aromatic blend of cilantro and onions.  It’s served on a filling sweet potato and Peruvian corn base. There are plenty of dishes for vegans and you can always find Italian food on the lunch menu.

The hands behind the stoves are grandmothers who love to cook, sharing their cultures with their children, their grandchildren, and the customers they serve.  

Nonna:  The Italian word for “grandmother.”