Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolution: eat at Enotecca Maria

Jody Scaravella of Staten Island, NY, had hard-working parents who were seldom home. His grandmother, Nonna Domenica, passed their family culture down to him by cooking Italian meals the old-fashioned way. Ten years ago, after losing his grandma and his mother, he opened a restaurant on Staten Island called Enoteca Maria. Instead of hiring a chef, he advertised in the Italian paper for grandmothers willing to cook their favorite recipes, like the braccioli and potatoes, shown here.

Since then, he's added a second kitchen. Four Italian nonnas rotate as chefs in one kitchen, while the other kitchen is used by a rotation of grandmas from many other countries, including Greece, Poland, Syria and Turkey. "Every time these ladies are in the kitchen cooking," you have hundreds of years of culture coming out of their fingertips," says Scaravella.

Scaravella is surprised so many of his customers are from Manhattan, where "there's a restaurant every twenty feet, so why come here?" But he's also received calls for reservations from England, Austria and Italy. Everyone comes for a homemade meal and to experience grandma's cooking -- which they may not be able to have with their own nonnas anymore. Scaravella says usually, at the end of the day, customers applaud the grandmas who have cooked for them. "They get standing ovations on a regular basis," he said, "and it's really something nice." Nonnas are now contributing their treasured family recipes to a new, online cookbook. For a peek, visit Maybe you'll find a precious recipe to make for your grandchildren. And if you visit the restaurant, leave your credit cards at home. They accept cash only -- the way things used to be.

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