There are many restaurants in New York – but this one is one of the most unusual: In the “Enoteca Maria” a different grandmother from all over the world is in charge of the kitchen every evening.

Even if you can now eat dishes from almost every region of the world in every big city – it still tastes best at grandma’s. This may be related to childhood memories, but maybe grandmother’s secret recipes give the food the final culinary touch. That’s why only grannies are at the stove in the New York restaurant “Enoteca Maria”.

The restaurant is located on Staten Island, the southernmost borough of New York, and follows a very special concept. It is actually an Italian restaurant, so half of the menu is also filled with Italian cuisine. The rest varies daily – depending on who is cooking. And these are not trained chefs, but a different grandmother from around the world every day.

“Enoteca Maria” in New York: Nonnas from all over the world cook

And they really have their roots all over the world, in Europe, Asia, Africa or South America. The “Nonnas” have long been an institution, even if guests can never be quite sure what’s on the menu that day. Some people even reserve a table from abroad before traveling to New York.

The restaurant is owned by Joe Scaravella, who comes from an Italian immigrant family. When his mother, grandmother and sister died in quick succession, he came up with the idea for the concept with the changing chefs. “After losing all these matriarchal figures in my life, I wanted to try and recreate that: the grandma cooking at the stove,” he told the New York Times in 2017. For Scaravella, the restaurant was an attempt to find solace in his grief, so he named the place after his mother.

At first he only left the kitchen to Italian grandmothers, who responded to a newspaper ad. From 2015, the map became more international. Scaravella sees the diversity as a big plus: there was also jealousy among the Italians, competition for the best lasagne or other dishes. Culinary excursions to very different parts of the world can now be undertaken in the restaurant every day. Many of the grandmothers cook according to decades-old family recipes. Women apply all the time, often using the e-mail addresses of their sons and daughters.

Endangered in the Corona period

During the Corona pandemic, the “Enoteca Maria” struggled like many other restaurants – or maybe even more so, since most of the chefs belonged to the Covid 19 risk group. The restaurant had to close, on the one hand because of the lockdown, on the other hand to protect the grandmothers from infections. But many of the grandmothers just kept cooking: Among other things, they provided the staff in health facilities with food or produced sauces from their home countries to take away, which Sacaravella then sold.

The restaurant was able to reopen in August last year because the older women had been vaccinated. First, a grandmother from Sri Lanka was allowed to take over the kitchen. In the meantime, business is running at full speed again in the restaurant, which is considered one of the most original in New York.

Quellen:  “The New York Times” / “The City” / Enoteca Maria