For over a decade, one restaurant in Staten Island has brought grandmothers from all over the world to replace professional chefs. So if you’re looking for a meal made with love, book a table at Enoteca Maria and try dishes made by their many “nonnas” from different cultures.
The nonnas come from all over the world, but most come from Italy, where owner Jody Scaravella is from. He wanted to employ grandmothers at his restaurant after losing his own grandmother, mother and sister.
“I think subconsciously I was just trying to patch those holes in my life and seeing an Italian grandmother in the kitchen cooking was my idea of comfort,” he told Gothamist.
He started employing nonnas by placing an ad in a newspaper written in Italian asking for Italian housewives to cook regional dishes. Today, you will find two different nonnas working in the restaurant at any given time: one from Italy, and another from a different country, like Syria, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Venezuela, Kazakstan and Turkey. Enoteca Maria also employs one male “nonno” who makes the fresh pasta you see on the menu.
As you might expect, with all of these grandmothers cooking at the same time, things in the kitchen can get a little heated.
“Each one of these [Italian] grandmothers feels like they’re the boss, because in their particular family unit, they’re at the top of that pyramid,” Scaravella said. “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. It can get dicey.”
The restaurant has been recommended by visitors from all over the world. Scaravella said he gets reservation requests from people in Italy, England and even Australia.
If you’d like to sit down and eat food prepared by grandmas from all over the world, you can go between Wednesday and Sunday. The restaurant closes “when everyone goes home for the evening,” so you can stick around and give a standing ovation to the grandmotherly chefs.
Meet some of the cooking grandmas in this video: