Different grandmas from around the world cook at Enoteca Maria on Staten Island

Dani Beckstrom Image
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Different grandmas from around the world cook at Enoteca Maria
Dani Beckstrom has the story.

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- This week's Neighborhood Eats takes you to Enoteca Maria on Staten Island.

It's a place where grandmothers representing countries from around the globe are hired as chefs to cook and share their family recipes.

A different Nonna, as they lovingly refer to them, is featured each weekend.

It's just a quick ferry ride away for a home-cooked meal.

"What is it about food that has that healing power, helps you through the grieving process," Eyewitness News' Dani Beckstrom asked.

"It's that universal thing, it's like music, like art and it really connects people. When a lady is in the kitchen and she's from whatever part of the world she's from, like today she's from Azerbaijan, it really kind of gently takes you there in a culinary way and your defenses drop because when somebody is feeding you, you can't have any wall in front of you, you have to open up so it really takes you there," said Jody Scaravella, owner.

Scaravella said Enoteca Maria is nurturing and comforting to their customers, and it was to him. He opened the restaurant as a tribute to his grandmother, mother, and sister.

"It's that whole nurturing thing you get from an infant and that's why it really takes you right away it takes you right there because you're right back in your mother's arms you know," Scaravella said.

It takes you right there because you're right back in your mother's arms you know,
Jody Scaravella, owner

"So your resident nonna was already a success, it helped you with that healing process but then where did the idea come from to expand to other cuisines and other cultures?" Beckstrom asked.

"In the beginning when we just featured ladies from different parts of Italy and that was really my focus, but I noticed that a lot of the customers were not Italian, they were from every part of the world coming here and celebrating these ladies, so it didn't make sense not to celebrate their culture as well. It was really a natural progression, it was very organic," he said.

The inspiration behind the restaurant was his own upbringing. And food was a big part of their family's traditions.

"So every Sunday we would go over to my grandmother's house and we would all sit around and she would prepare a big meal and afterward they would play penny poker or whatever, but it was really a whole bonding thing," Scaravella said.

It was all about being together.

"I love the idea that these ladies may come in and they may be bereaving from losing a spouse and they are rejuvenated and they light up when they come here so this all, it brings me great joy," he said.

"So how do you pick your nonnas from around the world?" Beckstrom asked.

"We get a lot of emails, calls, sometimes a family will come in and they'll have their mother or grandmother with them and they'll say, 'Oh my mom is a great cook,' So, I'll go over and talk to them and say, 'How would you like to cook here?' That's how it happens, it's very organic, very natural," he said.

One of the nonnas, Nonna Miral, spoke to Eyewitness News about what makes food from Azerbaijan so special.

"We have a lot of different herbs there I cannot find here honestly. What makes food healthy, we use a lot of herbs. For making lamb stew I put there bell pepper, mushroom, potato, carrots, everything. It's not only meat," Nonna Miral said. "Dry stuff that I bring from my country, I cannot find here. Food comes out delicious, aromatic, give spice, give aromatic, give taste, and people like it, they say your meat is melting in my mouth."

People like it, they say your meat is melting in my mouth
Nonna Miral

She says cooking at the restaurant for others brings her joy.

"I love cooking. If I'm not loving this job how can I stay the whole day and cook for people, you have to love it, what you do," she said.

"And you're really good at it, so that helps too. And you get to be a part of people's special moments," Beckstrom said.

"Mostly, no one has complained," Nonna Miral said, "Everybody loves it."

Enoteca Maria is located at 27 Hyatt Street, Staten Island, New York 10301. They are open Friday-Sunday, Noon til closing.


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