Owner Scaravella missed his late family members who were great cooks and recreated them by running this restaurant.
The art of cooking requires experience, expertise and a whole lot of love. It is a meaningful connection you create with the cuisine, the people who make it and the ones you share it with. This Staten Island restaurant has successfully done this through its food and the love they share with its customers. It is run by grandmothers who are known as "nonnas of the world" and everyone claps for them every single day before it closes, reports The Washington Post.
It is a celebration of the food and the culture these grandmothers are coming from. Enoteca Maria is a casual 30-seat Italian eatery where about a dozen women work and cook regularly. A rotating group of international women, the majority of whom are matriarchs, create and cook the cuisine. It has become so popular that you simply can't just walk in and get a table. Maria Gialanella, 88, one of the nonnas has attracted such a fanbase that some people only eat at the eatery when she is in the kitchen. She expresses enormous joy and delight in seeing visitors taste her culinary masterpieces.
She said, "Everybody likes it, so I’m very happy." The Italian immigrant is known for making Ravioli from scratch rich ragus, soups and other family recipes she has gathered while she grew up in Naples. Restaurant owner Joe Scaravella opened the eatery in 2007 and is Gialanella's biggest fan. He said, "She is not even 5 feet tall, but she’s a powerhouse. She goes around and does selfies. She spends the night hugging people." Originally, you had to be an Italian grandma like Gialanella to join the kitchen crew, but Scaravella decided to widen the culinary criteria around nine years ago.
Scaravella said that the cooks, who are all referred to as "nonna" by diners regardless of their ethnicity, range in age from 50 to 90 and are well-versed in each culture's distinct cuisine. Some are not grandmothers but the majority are. At Enoteca Maria, Yumi Komatsudaira prepares traditional Japanese food. Despite the fact that she does not have grandchildren, she is also referred to as nonna and she is ecstatic with the title. She specializes in traditional Japanese dishes like dumplings, dengaku, and an unlimited variety of noodle preparations ranging from salty to sweet.
Scaravella and the restaurant manager, Paola Vento, plan the weekly schedule and collaborate with the nonnas on menu selection. Vento said, "My favorite part of the job is getting to work with the grandmothers." He added that they also enjoy customers clapping for the visiting nonnas at the end of the evening. He explained, "You have to see the faces of the nonnas. They are so proud and so excited that they were able to share a part of their culture through food." Vento claims that several of the nonnas have become close friends. Despite the fact that they speak different languages and hail from different areas, they have found ways to connect, primarily through food.
To honor Scaravella's roots, the restaurant initially offered mainly Italian dishes. He founded the restaurant following the death of numerous family members, including his grandmother and mother, both of whom were born in Italy, as well as his sister. He stated they were all great cooks. He said, "The real story behind this place is grief — my own personal grief after losing a lot of my family, and trying to re-create them. That was what it was all driven by."
Although Scaravella misses his own nonna, he says his heart and stomach are now again full. What began as an attempt to reconnect with his heritage has enabled others to do the same.