NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a restaurant on Staten Island with a team of cooks unlike any other. They aren’t trained chefs. Instead, they are grandmothers.
A restaurant kitchen staffed by grandmas was the vision of Jody Scaravella, who opened Enoteca Maria in 2007. At first, he hired exclusively Italian nonnas, filling a personal void left by his own late grandmother.READ MORE: COVID Progress: CDC Announces What Fully Vaccinated People Can Do
Web Extra: The 5 Best Restaurants On Staten Island
Over time, he began to invite additional grandmothers from around the world to take turns cooking the foods they grew up with. Today, countries from Japan to Algeria are represented in the kitchen on a rotating schedule.
“You have two grandmothers every day,” Scaravella explained. “You always have an Italian nonna, and every day, the featured kitchen changes.”
A “Nonnas of the World” calendar assigns each grandmother a monthly date in the kitchen. “Sometimes people call, and they want to know when the Greek nonna’s cooking,” he said. “But some people enjoy the surprise.”
According to Scaravella, diners enjoy home-cooking with a side of nostalgia.READ MORE: Broadway Trombonist Leads Dozens In Virtual Performance To Inspire Young Performers On International Women's Day
“As I pass by the tables and see how everybody’s doing, everybody’s talking about their mother, about their grandmother, and it kind of ignites that trip down memory lane, you know?”
The cooks gain from the experience as much as the eaters do.
A nonna from Chios, Greece named Ploumitsa found a new community at Enoteca Maria after the death of her husband in 2016. “Very nice ladies,” she said. “Oh, I’m so happy, because they give me love.”
Ploumitsa brings her daughter Maria to the kitchen each month, where they work together to prepare the dishes that Ploumitsa’s own mother used to make.
“These ladies are really the point,” Scaravella said. “They really bring that food culture to the next generation. As you can see, Ploumitsa, she’s cooking with her daughter. She’s passing all that culture forward. And Maria will do the same thing. So that’s how we really end up where we are, and how we know where we came from.”
27 Hyatt Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
What’s something few people know about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.