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Posted on January 28, 2017 - by wervil - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Full Article Here:
Enoteca Maria’s ‘Nonnas in Training’ program on Staten Island will teach you to cook like grandma
By Jillian Jorgensen email@example.com October 20, 2016
At Enoteca Maria, grandmothers, not chefs, staff the kitchen. So when owner Jody Scaravella decided to offer cooking classes, naturally, he made them free. Would your nonna charge you to help out in the kitchen?
“I just felt that it would cheapen the experience to charge for it,” Scaravella said during the post-lunch lull at his Staten Island restaurant this week.
Scaravella’s restaurant has made headlines worldwide for employing Italian nonnas in the kitchen and turning out plates of rustic meals that remind diners of Sunday dinner. Recently, after years of watching people from every kind of culture come sample Italian grandmothers’ food, he decided that people might like to try traditional cooking from elsewhere in the world — and recruited a slate of international nonnas to share the restaurant with the Italians.
If there’s a catch to the free cooking class, it’s that you can’t pick which cuisine your nonna will specialize in.
“Basically what we’re doing is just taking different cultures and putting them together, and that’s really what we’re about,” Scaravella said.
A little mystery about what you’ll be cooking seems a small price to pay — or really no price at all — in exchange for a spot in these one-on-one cooking classes, which Enoteca Maria will offer from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Given the publicity and the crowds that flock to his small restaurant, people surely would have paid for the chance to cook with a nonna and, perhaps, bring back memories of cooking in their own grandmothers’ kitchens. But Scaravella said he just couldn’t bring himself to charge for it.
“I didn’t feel right about it,” he said. “But I don’t feel right about charging for a lot of things.”
Frequent diners at Enoteca Maria know that well. An order of espresso at the restaurant often arrives with the standard sugar, plus an entire bottle of sambuca for topping it off, on the house.
For an idea of what you might learn to cook, on Thursday, the restaurant’s downstairs kitchen was occupied, as it is every day it’s open, by an Italian nonna — Adelina Orazzo, from Casola di Napoli. Her menu included long hot peppers stuffed with sausage, cheese and breadcrumbs, four-cheese ravioli, homemade tagliatelle pasta in a fava bean and wild fennel sauce, and veal braciola, rolls of meat filled with vegetables and mozzarella cheese in red sauce. There were also Italian delicacies less common in the United States, like a whole stuffed sheep’s head.
The international nonna, Isioma Edu, was in the upstairs kitchen cooking food from Nigeria — including Egusi soup, made with goat meat, beef, dry fish, smoked turkey, dry shrimp, melon seeds and pounded yams. There was also a salad of oil bean seeds, eggplant, hot green peppers, dried crayfish, palm oil, stock fish and onions.
The only requirements for the class are a hat, closed-toe shoes and an apron. To sign up for the cooking classes, visit Enoteca Maria’s website and fill out the registration form, indicating when you are available to attend, and Scaravella will match you with an available nonna as soon as possible (though he cautioned there may be a wait).
Posted on November 16, 2016 - by wervil - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Posted on October 6, 2016 - by wervil - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
“Just like grandma used to make” is much more than a clever advertising scheme, it’s literally what’s happening at Staten Island’s Enoteca Maria, where the kitchen’s staffed not by professionally trained chefs, but by a fleet of “nonnas” from around the world. For about a decade, owner Jody Scaravella has opened his kitchens to grandmothers cooking the cuisines of their native countries. It started with just Italian grandmothers, after his own heritage, but has since expanded to include dozens of women from places like Argentina, Algeria, Syria, the Dominican Republic, Poland, Liberia, and Nigeria.
Scaravella got his first recruits by placing an ad in an Italian newspaper seeking “Italian housewives to cook regional dishes,” but over time, his roster has grown by references and word of mouth. “I talked to everybody when somebody gets in, we talk about the concept, I always ask them if you know somebody who wants to cook,” he said. “The concept has just mushroomed.” Though some nonnas are Staten Islanders, most come from Brooklyn, with some traveling from as far as New Jersey and The Bronx to cook at the restaurant.
While the nonnas are the big draw, the restaurant also employs one male “nonno,” Giuseppe Freya from Calabria, who makes all the pasta. “He makes the raviolis, he makes the ricotta gnocchi, he makes tagliatelle, he makes the pasta sheets for our lasagna,” Scaravella explained. “He’s fantastic.”
There’s the old adage about too many cooks, so do the nonnas get along? “Each one of these [Italian] grandmothers feels like they’re the boss, because in their particular family unit, they’re at the top of that pyramid. So when you put all of these grandmothers that are all at the top in a room together, they all feel like they’re in charge and they’re all wondering what that other person is doing there,” Scaravella joked. “It can get dicey.”
Friendly competition in the kitchen aside, the nonnas are a beloved fixture of the community, which hopefully can weather this development storm without too much upheaval. The restaurant even attracts customers from around the world—and they don’t need a fancy ferris wheel to do it.
“I regularly get phone calls from Australia, from England, and from Italy to book reservations. I’m always flattered by that,” Scaravella said. “We get a lot of people who come from Manhattan, the ferry is right down the block. That’s also very flattering, because there’s a restaurant every twenty feet in Manhattan. Why are they coming here?”
They’re coming for a home-cooked meal and an experience—grandma’s cooking—they might not be able to have with their own nonnas anymore. “Usually at the end of the day, the people will applaud the nonnas that have cooked for them,” Scaravella beamed. “They get standing ovations on a regular basis and it’s really something nice.”
Posted on May 7, 2016 - by wervil - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Craving some home cooking this Mother’s Day, but want to take your mom out? Try Staten Island eatery Enoteca Maria (27 Hyatt St.; 718-447-2777), where actual grandmothers will make you dishes from their own time-tested family recipes.
When it opened in 2007, a rotating cast of a dozen Italian nonnas (Italian grandmothers) took turns manning the kitchen — “I’m a nonna magnet,” brags owner Jody Scaravella. “Grandmothers love me.”
Since then, his roster has expanded to 30 grannies. And, last summer, he broadened his culinary horizons with Nonnas of the World, featuring home cooks from such far-flung locales as Trinidad, Prague and Kazakhstan. Each night spotlights a menu from one of the Italian grandmas, cooking regional fare, as well as one from another part of the globe. On Sunday, Nonna Rosa Correa, from Lima, Peru, will take her turn in the kitchen whipping upchupe de camarones (shrimp stew), cilantro-marinated meat and the flan-like dessert crema volteada.
“Our mission is to celebrate every culture,” says Scaravella, who hopes to add even more grandmas to Enoteca’s global lineup. Here’s a look at five Nonnas of the World.
When Nonna Zena Mossis and her husband moved to New York City — where their son lives — from war-torn Kamishly, Syria, three years ago, she didn’t speak any English, barely knew her son Jay’s new wife and had left behind two daughters in the Middle East. “I figured we would come here and wait for things to calm down in Syria and then go back,” says the 65-year-old, who received a visa when Jay’s son Christopher was born three years ago. “But that hasn’t happened.”
Zena had spent her last two years in Kamishly without water, electricity or security from the violence erupting around her, buut it still took her a while to get used to life in the US. So, when her daughter-in-law, Irini, found an ad on Craigslist looking for new chefs at nearby Enoteca Maria, she encouraged Zena to apply. Now, she comes to the restaurant once a month, making her family’s signature grape leaves and patties stuffed with ground meat.
“People clap each time I leave the restaurant,” Zena beams. She also says working there has boosted her self-confidence and has strengthened her relationship with Irini, who acts as her translator and helps her plan and write out her menus in English. Now, she can’t imagine going back to her hometown.
From the Czech Republic
Nonna Helena Svetla actually hates cooking. But the 63-year-old Czech grandmother does like when people praise her duck with apples or potato dumplings with sauerkraut. “That’s the best,” says the former art restorer, whose daughter, Anna, encouraged her to begin cooking at Enoteca Maria after going to dinner there with her husband. “The first time I was cooking, I was outside and somebody came to me and told me I was amazing. I love the interaction.”
Helena moved from Prague to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, two years ago to help Anna and her husband raise their son, Jesse, now 2. “New York has been amazing, because it is helping me find myself,” she says through Anna, translating. “In Eastern Europe, I feel so tied up because of the past and how people are,” she says.
And after a career spent restoring gold-plated Renaissance statues and churches in Prague, Helena paints her own abstract art (which now hangs on the restaurant’s walls) and marvels at the architecture in the Big Apple.
Nonna Monique Papon was already living in New York for 30 years before a friend recommended her for a job at Enoteca Maria, where the Staten Island resident cooks such traditional French dishes as bouillabaisse and boeuf bourguignon. “The first day was very nerve-racking because when you don’t know the technique at a restaurant, it’s like [you’re] in a panic. But now I’m OK.”
Monique grew up in the French village of Châteauroux, but the 65-year-old says that wanderlust is in her blood: Her father was a truck driver, and her aunt was always traveling to some place exotic like the Ivory Coast or Australia. “She would always bring us back some beautiful fabric or spice that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” recalls Monique.
After she worked 10 years in a local factory, Hollywood star Yul Brynner hired Monique to take care of his two adopted daughters from Vietnam, Mia and Melody. In 1975, the family sailed for America.
“I was like, my eyes couldn’t see everything,” she says of first landing in NYC. “Everything was so gigantic.”
She regularly sees Melody, who lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing, and keeps in touch with Mia, who visits frequently from Miami with her own two children. “I always wanted to have children, but I didn’t,” says the divorcée, who was married briefly to Brynner’s driver. “So, for me they are like my two daughters.”
When Nonna Rosa Correa’s son Victor moved to Staten Island from Lima, Peru, 12 years ago, the now-72-year-old mom decided to go with him. “I was divorced, and though I had another daughter in Peru, I thought I would come to the US,” Roas says. “Plus, I wanted to make sure [his kids] spoke Spanish.” Rosa lives with her son, his wife and their three children. Her daughter-in-law suggested she applied for a job at Enoteca Maria. “She said, ‘Do you want to cook with the grandmothers?’ I had never worked before, and I said yes. So, I came here and we liked it.”
She still is getting used to American customs 12 years later, and still misses her daughter. But she loves going to the beach and especially fishing: “Though I never catch anything — it’s just for fun!”
Her favorite thing, besides playing with her grandchildren? Cooking at Enoteca Maria. “I would come here every day if [Scaravella] asked me to,” she says. “When I cook here, the people say, ‘Ay! Ay!’ They want to take photos of me. They love the food I make. It makes me feel good.”
Twenty years ago, Nonna Adelina Masana moved with her husband from Naples, Italy, to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, an Italian neighborhood. “It was like I never left Italy,” she says, adding that she wishes she had had more incentive to learn English (which she speaks haltingly). Although Adelina, now 60, divorced, and her ex-husband moved back to Italy, Adelina happily lives with her children and two grandchildren.
One of the original nonnas in the Enotecca Maria kitchen, she works there four or five times a week — and enjoys cooking at the restaurant specialties such as eggplant boats stuffed with rice, mozzarella, ricotta, ground beef and peas. “It gives me an excuse not to cook at home, and gives me independence.”