Courtesy Bill Lyons/Nonnas of the World
Gather ’round the table, pour a glass of wine, and settle into conversation with the cousins, aunts, and uncles—Grandma’s cooking.
Whether a home-cooked meal with Gram is a distant memory from childhood or is something you’re still lucky enough to indulge in, Enoteca Maria, an Italian wine bar and restaurant in Staten Island, New York, wants to make it an experience you can enjoy whenever you want, with grandmas from all over the world.
Owner Joseph Scaravella, 61, came up with the idea after his mother, sister, and grandmother passed away, reports the New York Times. “After losing all those matriarchal figures in my life,” he told the paper, “I wanted to try to recreate that, you know, grandma in the kitchen cooking.”
With that vision in mind, he opened his restaurant on a quiet street in New York City’s quietest borough. The original kitchen was run exclusively by Italian “nonnas”—Scaravella posted an ad in an Italian newspaper seeking “Italian housewives to cook regional dishes.” In 2016, the restauranteur expanded the concept to include grandmothers from other cultures. Now, more than a dozen matriarchs, from countries such as Argentina, Algeria, Syria, the Dominican Republic, France, Turkey, Colombia, Poland, Liberia, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Kazakhstan, cook for the restaurant.
Each night at Enoteca Maria is different. The restaurant features a fixed menu of Italian cuisine (each pasta dish is made from scratch by the kitchen’s one resident grandpa, Giuseppe Freya from Calabria, Italy), as well as a rotating menu decided upon by the grandma who is scheduled to cook that night. Guests can check the schedule in advance and make a reservation—tables here fill up quickly. (Don’t miss these 20 delicious recipes just like grandma used to make.)
And just like your grandma, these nonnas make sure you leave happy and full. “Usually at the end of the day, the people will applaud the nonnas that have cooked for them,” Scaravella told Gothamist. “They get standing ovations on a regular basis and it’s really something nice.”