The highest praise a cook can receive is that their meal “tastes just like Grandma’s.” At Enoteca Maria, that applies to every dish that comes to your table. Not because it employs professionally trained master chefs, but because every day literally a different grandmother heads the kitchen.
The concept came about after owner Jody Scaravella lost his mother in the early 2000s. When he opened Enoteca Maria two years later, Scaravella staffed his kitchen with Italian grandmothers (“nonnas”) to create feeling of homey comfort in his restaurant.
In July of 2015, Scaravella invited a Pakistani nonna to cook for a night. From there, the project expanded into “Nonnas of the World,” and he invited nonnas from all backgrounds to come and cook their home cuisine for appreciative customers.
Although some of the nonnas hail from Staten Island, most come from Brooklyn. Others travel from New Jersey and the Bronx to share their family’s culinary history. Their food comes from all over the world though. To date, Nonnas of the World has featured cooks from Japan, Syria, France, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Poland, Greece, Turkey, Liberia, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic, Czechia, Belarus, Pakistan, and of course, Italy, just to name a few.
Two nonnas work in the kitchen at any given time, one as the head chef, the other as her sous chef. This means a South American nonna and a Middle Eastern nonna could be working side by side in the kitchen, learning from each other’s recipes. Cooking classes are offered as well—for women only, many of whom are grandmothers themselves—and get booked months in advance. It’s another opportunity for cross-cultural recipe sharing, as well as a chance to eat food made with love.
Know Before You Go
Enoteca Maria is open Wednesday to Sunday from 3 PM on.
From the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, walk straight across Bay Street up the steps of Borough Hall onto Hyatt Street. It's right next to St. George's Theatre.