Hidden NY: Nonnas run the kitchen at Enoteca Maria

STATEN ISLAND — How many times have you eaten at a restaurant and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so good. They must have my grandma in the kitchen!’

Steps from the St. George Theatre in Staten Island, you’ll find a quaint restaurant called Enoteca Maria on Hyatt Street.

Who will you find in their kitchen? Grandmas.

Jody Scaravella had zero restaurant experience when he opened the spot nearly 12 years ago after mourning the loss of his mom and grandma and sister, and of course, the wonderful meals they had prepared for the family through the years.

“I was just trying to recreate that,” said Jody. “The comfort that offered. I was trying to replace that, to fill that in, to backfill that.”

To keep their memories alive, Enoteca Maria introduced an interesting concept. So in came the Nonnas, from all over Italy.  Cooking up their special dishes for Jody’s customers.

“People love what we are doing,” Scaravella enthused.

“The Nonnas come out to them and they talk to them. It kind of evokes that trip down memory lane.”

There is always an Italian nonna in the kitchen. Then, they rotate in women from all over the world, including Japan, Sri Lanka, Korea, Greece, Poland.

Yia Yia Ploumitsa from Greece and Tanta Judy from the Lower East Side by way of Poland, enjoy cooking so much. She is particularly proud of her moussaka, and patrons love it. “They ask me how to make this, what to put inside,” she said.

Tanta Judy enjoys giving hungry diners what she calls comfort foods, “Most of my recipes are Eastern European with little touches of the Sephardic or Israeli recipes mixed in.”

The place is always full, so reservations are a must, and the restaurant is also cash only.

One more little tidbit: Scaravella’s life and restaurant will be portrayed in a film, with shooting likely to start in the fall.

Maria Enoteca is located at 27 Hyatt St in Staten Island.

For more information, click here.

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