Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Our Visiting Guest Chef Tonight Is My Grandma"

Enoteca Maria is an Italian restaurant in Staten Island where there is a rotating roster of Italian grandmothers doing the cooking - their specialties, family comfort food - all of the dishes that kids grew up loving.  And probably don't have the time or energy to recreate them.

It was the brainstorm of owner  Joe Scaravella who set it all up in 2016 after the place had been open for nine years.  Seeing the success of this program he widened it to include other ethnic grandmothers so that today half of the menu is Italian foods and the other half, which seems to change daily is another culture's cuisine.  Example:  Tuesday - Thai dish ____ prepared by _____.  The restaurant has two kitchens which makes it easier to do. 

This success prompted him to start an online book of recipes from nonnas - contributors are invited to provide:  a short bio of the nonna, three photos and one recipe.   "Meh," you shrug?  Each entry is presented in the native language of the donor.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, the Murphys have a Maria's, too.  Richie's cousin Ruth Ellen married Gianni Giordano, who was the founder of Maria's Pizza, Cape Coral, Florida, which was just presented the Best of Cape Coral 2017 Readers Choice Awards.   Again.

Maria's began as a one picnic table take-out in 1991 and today seats 75 in a brick and mortar restaurant.  Gianni died, age 81.  By then he had been a grandfather several times over and loved nothing better than to cook for them all. 

And while nonnas (grandmothers) are more frequently thought to be the chefs, a word should be said in favor of nonnos like Gianni.  Richie's brother Charlie commented on a family dinner with awe, "The food just kept coming!  That was the most I ever ate in my entire life!  And Gianni cooked it all!"

Put that in your bonnet, grannie.

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