At Enoteca Maria in Staten Island, “Just like grandma used to make” isn’t just some advertising scheme. This kitchen is actually full of grandmas doing the cooking, not professionally trained chefs.
Owner Jody Scaravella started with Italian nonnas because he’s Italian, but now he’s expanded and there are women from all over the world cooking food from their native countries, including Argentina, Algeria, Syria, Poland, and Nigeria. He got his first grandmas by placing an ad in an Italian newspaper looking for “Italian housewives to cook regional dishes,” but references and word of mouth help him find his cooks now.
There’s even one “nonno,” Giuseppe Freya, who makes all the pasta for the restaurant. And people come from all over to enjoy a home-cooked meal here. “Usually at the end of the day, the people will applaud the nonnas that have cooked for them,” Scaravella explains. “They get standing ovations on a regular basis and it’s really something nice.”