NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A restaurant on Staten Island is bringing in big crowds, and soon, you will be able to learn from its kitchen pros.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the first lesson at Enoteca Maria in St. George is, “Grandma knows best.”
Nonna Adelina Orazzia came to Staten Island from Napoli, Italy. She is not a trained chef, but she has been making meals for the last 10 years at Enoteca Maria.
Just like Bauman’s own Italian grandma, Orazzia was too busy in the kitchen for chit-chat as she worked at cooking.
The restaurant only brings in grandmothers, or nonnas, to cook their meals. When owner Jody Scaravella’s mother and grandmother passed away a decade ago, like a true Italian, he turned to food for comfort.
So the aspiring restaurateur put out an ad for some Italian homemakers, and the nonnas answered.
“I was out of my mind with grief, and it really helped me seeing these grandmothers — at that time, they were Italian grandmothers — in the kitchen cooking,” Scaravella said. “It was comforting.”
Downstairs in the main kitchen, there is at least one Italian nonna each night. But upstairs in the guest kitchen, rotating nonnas prepare dishes from their home countries. Recently, the food was from Liberia.
“I love cooking,” said Hawa Jimiez, a Liberian nonna. “I raised five children.”
Jimiez came in for a cleaning job six months ago. Now, she is sharing her Liberian recipes with Staten Island.
“Original Liberian Parma cream beef stew that was seasoned with the white rice — absolutely delicious,” said patron Susan Natalicchio.
Bauman had to agree.
“it’s a warm fuzzy spot, and I noticed a lot of people that came here from every culture had that same fuzzy feeling,” owner Scaravella said.
Next, the nonnas will add “teacher” to their resumes. Enoteca Maria will soon offer free cooking classes to anyone who loves a home cooked meal.