Archive for the ‘The Experience’ Category
Posted on May 28, 2015 - by wervil - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Nonna’s Kitchen, Bubbie’s Blessing
Rabbi Michelle S. Robinson
Delivered Shabbat morning, April 11, 2015 (22 Nisan 5775)
We come here this morning, our hearts heavy with memories. What do we do with those memories?
Jody Scaravella, the author of a unique new cookbook, asked that very question. He had grown up in a close-knit Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn surrounded by a family so warm and loving that, until he was 50 years old, he chose to live on the same block on which he had grown up. His sister lived across the street. Evenings and weekends were filled with the smells and tastes and sounds of the generations gathering around the kitchen of his Nonna, his grandmother.
When all seemed to be humming along, tragedy struck. He recalls, “I lost my grandfather and father, my grandmother and mother, and my sister in fairly quick succession. I was feeling bereft, like the last man standing.”
The street, once so full of life and laughter, now became haunted with shadows. He looked around the place where he had felt most at home in the world and couldn’t find home there anymore. Without those he loved, the street was just a street.
All those losses had left him with a little bit of an inheritance. He decided he would use it to start a new life. Thinking that after 50 years in the city, a nice house near the water would be just right for his second chapter, he asked a realtor to take him out to Staten Island. By serendipity he found a house he fell in love with the moment he walked in. The dining room had a little shelf wrapping all around the room, the perfect place to display his mother’s dishes. Surrounding himself with mementos of his beloved family felt right. But in this new house, in this new place, there was much missing.
Until one day he was walking near the docks and he spotted a store-front for rent. It felt to him, he said, “like a cozy little restaurant.”
He could display his mother’s plates on his wall, he realized, but it was what was on those plates that brought his family’s memory to life. His big, close-knit Italian family gathered around Nonna’s table. It was in the authentic hand-made pasta and the parmesan grated just so, in the sauces and the smiles, that their memories lived. On that walk, an idea clicked into place.
Jody drafted an ad to place in the local Italian-language newspaper for a very particular kind of cook for his new restaurant. He wasn’t sure if anyone would reply. Some friends told him it was a crazy idea.
The ad invited grandmothers, Nonnas, to come to his restaurant. The request was simple: cook whatever you are inspired to cook, your best recipe, your most authentic dishes that bring your family together around your table – a different Nonna offering a different meal every night.
The restaurant has become an astounding success. People come by ferry from Manhattan and all over the world to eat what are living memories, not only for Jody Scaravella, but for so many the taste of their own beloved departed Nonna’s kitchens. In the smells, the tastes, what was lost is re-experienced and, if even just for a few moments, lives again.
Jody named the restaurant Enoteca Maria, after his mother. He says, “I realize now that I was unconsciously trying to fill gaps: to recreate the warmth… to reconnect with the embrace of the family I had lost.”
In many ways, this week we have all been in Nonna’s kitchen. In our Bubbie’s matzah ball soup recipes and our mother’s fine china special for the Seder. In our father’s kiddush. In remembering which of the four children, the arbah banim siblings would have read. How is it we always seemed to have the same roles every year?
At my Seders growing up, as the evening drew to a close, my father would take his palm and place it on the table just so, his other hand tapping his heart, and in his best thick Ashkenazish accent would bring his Zaide to life in the droning old-world stanzas of Adir B’mlucha. This year, since my father is in Jerusalem, my sister and I re-enacted for our children their Zaide’s Zaide. It just wouldn’t be Pesach without him.
Pesach is great at that. The Seders are great at giving us the ritual and the food to bring back the tastes and the smells, the sound and the feel of our departed beloved. But life is not so great at that.
Today is the last day of Passover. Tonight, after the last chair is put away and the dishes are returned to storage, we go from hearing a beloved’s inflection in each word of the Haggadah, to the stark reality of all the conversations we will never get to share. From opening the door for Elijah, to knowing they will never again walk through our door. From the way the story of the Exodus was always told just so, to a story we’re not so sure we know the lines to anymore. We can’t feel their touch. Can’t see them smile. Can’t hold their hand in our own. We do not LIVE in Nonna’s kitchen.
Or do we?
The interesting thing about Yizkor today is that it reminds us that we do not have to feel their touch to be touched by them. We do not need to hold their hands to be their hands, making this world a better place in their memory.
Pesach’s foundational principle is kol hamarbeh l’saper, harei zeh meshubach. We cannot get enough of telling the story of the Exodus on Passover. And we cannot over-do telling the story of our loved ones throughout the year. In telling their story, we learn their lessons. In learning their lessons, we live their legacy.
John Tierney reported in the New York Times about a new research study. “Nostalgia,” he wrote, “had been considered a disorder ever since the term was coined … longing to return home, nostos in Greek, and the accompanying pain, algos.” To revisit the story of what we have lost had been understood as clinging to that which we can no longer have.
On the contrary, this study discovered. It turns out that when we revisit memories of blessing, we discover the strength to create blessing anew.
A few days before Passover, I opened a card that had come to my office. It came from a dear member of our community.
My eyes filled with tears as I read the story she shared. Although she herself is now a grandmother, she began, “My beautiful grandparents and parents every year before Pesach would give tzeddakah.” As I continued to read, it was clear that in this card she had not only enclosed a donation in their memory, but told their story in a way that enabled her to bring their deeds back into this world.
What is amazing is that according to the study, not only good memories can have this positive effect. The study’s author, Dr. Sedikides, said, “Nostalgic stories [can] start badly,” but “you end up with a stronger feeling of belonging…” Those stories make us “feel that [our lives have] roots and continuity. [They provide] a texture to…life and [give us] strength to move forward.”
We all have memories – some of them extraordinary, some of them painful. But each of them, this study and Pesach itself remind us, are gems.
Our ancestors once left Egypt, but we have continued to tell the story.
Jody Scaravella moved away from the old neighborhood to a new life, but he kept telling the story from his mother’s dishes to his Nonna’s delicacies. In telling that story, he invited an entire community in.
The Nonnas he invited in to cook for a night or two have become his extended family. They have found community and connection and healing in each other. One Nonna even moved away to New Jersey, but she still commutes one and a half hours each way to cook two nights a month. In the remembering, they created and continue to create new memories. Jody and the Nonnas recently published a book titled, “Nonna’s House: Cooking and Reminiscing with the Italian Grandmothers of Enoteca Maria.”
That is our charge today – marbeh l’saper.
How do we remember? We come together, we tell their stories and we listen to where those stories lead us. For Jody Scaravella, it was a little restaurant by the shore that he filled with new friendships and new joy. What will it be for you?
We do not have the voice or smile of our loved ones, but we do have their story.
As the authors Charles and Ann Morse once wrote, “It is into us that the lives of [our loved ones] have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future.”
May we tell their stories well so that they help us to create new stories that bring new life to our world.
Posted on September 18, 2010 - by admin - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
by Hannah Karp
The Wall Street Journal
On just a fifth of an acre, Mr. Scaravella’s garden overlooks the harbor, Brooklyn and the Verrazano Bridge. Every patch of soil is occupied by a wide variety of foods including arugula, watermelon-sized squash, peaches, figs and San Marzano tomatoes. Last year Mr. Scaravella found room to plant 30 Sangiovese vines; he spent much of this afternoon crawling up and down the hill weeding his little vineyard. Read the full story from the Wall Street Journal….
Posted on September 9, 2010 - by admin - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Enoteca Maria continues to attract significant media attention, this time from the Rachael Ray show. Her production crew visited the restaurant on a beautiful September Sunday while a 50th Anniversary dinner was in full swing. The four-person team taped various segments of grandmas preparing favorite recipes and later in the afternoon took their cameras to Joe and Val’s Numina biodynamic garden to check out the late summer harvest.
A few days later, Joe headed up to the Rachael Ray studios in Manhattan with five grandmothers in tow (Adelena, Nina, Valarie, Teresa, and Rosaria). Joe was interviewed by Rachael in front of a live audience while they rolled in the edited clip of the interviews from Sunday. The show aired on ABC TV on Friday, October 9 at 10am.
Check out the segment recorded at the Enoteca by Rachael Ray’s production crew on the Rachael Ray Daytime Talk Show site.
Posted on October 20, 2009 - by admin - 4 comments so far
CARMELINA, THE NONNA-COOK WHO CONQUERED NEW YORK
Having left Marcianise, Italy in 1961, she went from housewife to being a star in the kitchen of the Enoteca Maria.
by Franco Tontoli
Corriere Del Mezzogiorno
(English translation by Alma Benussi)
MARCIANISE – “My sister told us about her success in New York, cooking in that restaurant she works in along with her italian friends, and what surprises us is that this success has been hitting Italy too! We’re very happy for her, Carmelina is a very modest person and she really deserves all this satisfaction after spending so many years of sacrifice being an Italian immigrant in the United States.”
Those are the words of Giovanni Tartaglione, who points out his sister in the photo taken in the kitchen of the Enoteca Maria. Carmelina and her “stepsisters” (her new family of cooks in the Staten Island restaurant) are well-known in New York thanks to all the delicacies they serve each night at the tables of the Enoteca Maria, a restaurant that didn’t reach its success through restaurant guides or reviews but with the massive passing of the word between food lovers around New York City who take the ferry from Manhattan and the other boroughs heading to the Italian Enoteca in St. George, Staten Island.
The Nonnas cook with fantasy, smiles and conviviality that give extra flavors to their dishes. Those are the main features of Italian people, very appreciated in Staten Island which has around a half million citizens with 44% of Italian origin. The team of cooks was put together by an Italian-American—Joe Scaravella—a real talent-scout who added to his wine bar a great restaurant. The restaurant, though, is still primarily an Enoteca as the sign says. Joe has been very smart in creating a team of cooks from talented Italian housewifes who turned into chefs. They all come from different Italian regions and their cuisine belongs to their regional traditions, full of echoes of their hometown.
Carmelina Tartaglione, who has been married with Pasquale Pica for almost 50 years now, keeps delighting the custumers with the culinary heritage she brought from Marcianise to the USA, full of memories of smells and tastes she learned from her mother, who had to feed eight children and a husband.
“Carmelina spent a month here with us last September, her first time back in Italy after three years. She has been missing us a lot during these years and now she had the chance of spending some time with us, making up for the lost time. We are eight brothers—Francesca, Vincenzo, Michelina, Antonio, Alfonsina, Elvira, Carmelina and myself. We’re very close to each other. Carmelina left Italy at the age of twenty-two after marrying Pasquale who used to work as a sailor between Italy and America. She became American in 1961. She has three children: Mike, a pharmacist, Tony, and Patricia. She started working for her husband’s brother Bruno in a grocery store where she started making her own fresh food to sell at the counter. Joe Scaravella got to know her and wanted her in his restaurant,” said her brother Giovanni.
Carmelina calls home every Sunday, telling her brothers and sisters about the satisfaction she gets along with all her “stepsisters.” “Carmelina,” Giovanni continues, “always knew how to cook our specialties, our simple dishes: pèttole and fagioli, salsiccia and friarielli, vegetable soups, fried anguille and marinated ones, the pancotto, the frittelle with squash flowers, the scagliuozzi. Those simple dishes are so delicious that it’s impossible not to love them. I can see how they are important for all those Italians who live abroad.”
The dinners at the Staten Island restaurant are all different; the cook from Milano gives her best with risotti and cotolette alla milanese; the cook from Abruzzo with strangolapreti, stringozzi, maccheroni alla chitarra; the Sicilian cook is the queen of fish-based dishes, like her pasta with anchioves. You have eight restaurants in one, not the ordinary spaghetti with meatballs italian joint, but the most delicious and rare dishes of the old italian traditions.
“It’s true,” says her brother Giovanni, “my sister keeps repeating it: she just speaks and cooks Marcianise. And you should see how people love her!”
I SUCCESSI DEI CASERTANI EMIGRATI NEGLI STATI UNITI
Carmelina, ecco la nonna-cuoca che spopola a New York
Partita da Marcianise nel 1961, da casalinga è diventata star della cucina all’Enoteca Maria
MARCIANISE — “Mia sorella ci ha raccontato del successo che ottiene a New York, nel ristorante in cui cucina con altre amiche italiane e ci stupisce questa notorietà arrivata anche in Italia. Siamo contenti, Carmelina non è tipo che si monta la testa, merita le soddisfazioni per i tanti sacrifici affrontati nella sua vita da emigrata.”
Parla Giovanni Tartaglione, pensionato della Gte, stabilimento un tempo fra le colonne portanti della occupazione a Marcianise. E indica, nella foto, la sorella con la bustina da cuoca. Carmelina e le sue sorelle, cioè quelle acquisite tra i fornelli della Enoteca Maria di Staten Island, distretto di New York, furoreggiano per tutto quanto di buono mettono nei piatti portati in tavola. Non c’è stata indicazione con graduatoria fatta di simboli tipici delle guide gastronomiche ad affollare i tavoli del ristorante; è bastato il passaparola che s’è fatto sempre più fitto fra buone forchette, gente che a tavola non va per le spicce e non c’è sera alla settimana che dal traghetto non sbarchino pattuglie di incursori, forchette in resta, diretti all’enoteca italiana a New York.
Le nonne-cuoche lavorano di fantasia, col sorriso e giovialità, ingredienti che rendono più saporite le vivande. Tutte caratteristiche, queste, degli italiani, qualità subito apprezzate nell’isola di Staten Island, quasi mezzo milione di abitanti di cui il 44% di origine italiana. A mettere insieme il gruppo è stato un altro italoamericano, Joe Scaravella, un talent scout della ristorazione che ha così arricchito il suo locale, già tipicamente italiano, trasformandolo da enoteca a ristorante. Ma, per scaramanzia, ha lasciato la vecchia insegna. Joe ha naso fino, dalla prima delle sue cuoche, aveva saputo di un’amica di questa che ai fornelli era brava e poi di un’altra e poi di un’altra ancora e la ‘brigata di cucina’ s’è arricchita di otto comandanti. Da varie regioni provengono le cuoche ed è stato naturale assegnare a ciascuna piena libertà di cucinare tutte le tipicità dei rispettivi paesi.
Carmelina Tartaglione, sposata con Pasquale Pica e quasi vicina alle nozze d’oro, la clientela continua a deliziarla con tutto il bagaglio culinario che negli Stati Uniti s’era portata nel cuore da Marcianise, ricordi di odori e sapori e tutto quanto aveva imparato dalla mamma, casalinga a fronteggiare marito e otto figli di robusto appetito.
Racconta Giovanni, il fratello: “Carmelina è stata da noi tutto il mese dello scorso settembre, mancava da tre anni ed ha fatto il pieno e gli arretrati di quanto le è mancato di noi. Otto fratelli, Francesca, Vincenzo, Michelina, Antonio, Alfonsina, Elvira, lei ed io, sempre molto uniti. Carmelina sposò Pasquale, un compaesano che era marittimo sulle navi che facevano la spola tra l’America e l’Italia, aveva ventidue anni e dal 1961 diventò americana. Ha tre figli, Mike che è farmacista, Tony e Patricia. Per guadagnare qualche dollaro cominciò ad aiutare Bruno, fratello del marito, che gestiva una salumeria, qui cominciò a cucinare qualche pietanza che persone che là hanno sempre fretta portavano a casa. La voce arrivò a Joe Scaravella e fu arruolata.”
Carmelina ogni domenica telefona a turno a fratelli e sorelle e fa il resoconto delle soddisfazioni che raccoglie, insieme alle sue ‘consorelle’. “Carmelina” — dice ancora il fratello — “sapeva già cucinare le nostre specialità, tutti piatti semplici: pèttole e fagioli, salsiccia e friarielli, le zuppe di verdura, le anguille fritte e marinate, il pancotto, le frittelle con i fiori di zucca, quelle di farina di granturco che noi chiamiamo ‘scagliuozzi’. Insomma, niente di eccezionale ma che soprattutto fra italiani all’estero ed anche fra i locali diventano piatti che fanno furore.”
Le serate, nel ristorante di Staten Island, diventano anche confronti culinari a tema, la cuoca milanese ci dà sotto con risotti e cotolette; quella abruzzese sfarina con strangolapetri, stringozzi, maccheroni alla chitarra; quella siciliana si sbraccia in pasta con le sarde e pietanze di pesce. Insomma, la formula è da otto ristoranti in uno che non sono le solite spaghetterie e polpetterie. Ma piatti prelibati della migliore tradizione della cucina casareccia italiana.
“E’ proprio così” — conferma Giovanni — mia sorella lo ripete sempre: io parlo e cucino solo marcianisano. E devi vedere come sbandierano i tovaglioli.”
Posted on October 1, 2009 - by admin - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
The October 2009 issue of Io published in Milan, Italy features a recipe by Enoteca Maria’s very own Nina Picariolo and food styling and photography by Alma Benussi, also a cook at the restaurant.
Posted on September 23, 2009 - by admin - (Comment * FaceBook It * Send to Friend)
Over the past year, Enoteca Maria has gotten a lot of attention; We’ve been covered extensively here in the US as well as in Italy and the UK. As the word spreads in the motherland, grandmothers from different parts of Italy have contacted us about their love of cooking.
On Saturday, February 20th, Enoteca Maria was proud to have Milena from Monza, Milano as our guest cook. Milena is the owner of the Alla Stanga Enoteca in Milano and prepared her favorite recipes paired with wines she had shipped directly from her Enoteca to our Enoteca.
The wines featured for pairing:
“Lavinia” Barbera del Monferrato, a very pleasant, young and richly fruit-filled wine.
La Vigna Vecchia” Barbera d’Asti, fermented from a high quality grape that exemplifies the best characteristics of traditional Barberas.
“La Vita” Moscato d’Asti, a small batch wine with complex and pleasant aromatic characteristics perfect with sweets to finish a meal.
Click to download the full menu.
A restaurant’s best friend is an educated customer.
By Pamela Silvestri
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Today I’d like to salute Staten Islanders who enjoy their wine and want the best possible experience with it. By the way, if you fit into this category of customer, people in the food business think you’re a high maintenance type of diner. A bartender I once worked with called this class of customer a “wine snob,” a term that actually I think is rather flattering. After all, what wine snobs do is make a waiter work for his money.
If you’ve done tours in the front-of-the-house as a server or bartender, you can spot a wine snob a mile away. He’s the one who asks about selections by the glass and isn’t satisfied until the brand is disclosed. He might go so far as to peek behind the bar to make sure wine isn’t coming from a box, a magnum or — visible shudder — a tap system. And if a neighboring patron stinks of perfume — how can one taste what’s in the glass when there’s a mouthful of White Diamonds wafting into the glass at the same time? — he asks for a seat change or just quietly leaves the restaurant.
Of course, there is that silly behavior that gives oenophiles a bum rap. A patron whiffs the screw cap or plastic cork — the latter stoppers hail from pulverized cork mixed with plastic and glue — and perhaps makes a face. What could one possibly tell from sniffing materials that don’t necessarily absorb aroma? Oh, this drama of such wine-os makes for great war stories. And when a patron furiously swirls house bubbly such as Prosecco in a glass and declares it as “just OK” — swirling in this capacity shakes out the bubbles, goofy! — or complains about the wine selections but forgets to look around at the venue — uh, places that specialize in greasy burgers don’t necessarily have to carry wines above swill grade — rest assured that this pretentious dance will be the topic of later booze-fueled staff discussions.
Rest assured, the wine snob is a waiter’s best friend. He’s the one who increases check averages, perhaps orders more than a single bottle in one sitting and who will reward the staff handsomely when they do their homework. (Free tip: Customers appreciate waiters who steer them correctly).
It would be wonderful to see more restaurants do what Enoteca Maria in St. George does so well: Catering to some astute palates and pushing wine snobbery to the limits. Co-owner Jody Scaravella presents every wine on the list by the glass and by the bottle. The restaurant opens fresh bottles for customers who order vino by the glass. Good quality wine goblets are presented to guests whether they buy by the bottle or glass.
Note other restaurants such as Angelina’s in Tottenville reward guests with the better stemware only when customers order full bottles. I know a couple who brings their own stemware to restaurants that don’t supply decent glasses of their own.
It’s not so bad to be fussy about wine. And I think most restaurants should be putting much more thought into their selections by the glass. It’s 2009, after all, and I do think most Staten Islanders are fairly educated on the subject. At Jean’s Fine Wines in West Brighton, for instance, regular Friday night wine samplings bring out educated palates. The typical customer can describe wines with words like “buttery,” “barnyard,” “acidic” and the like.
At Basilio’s Inn in South Beach, owner Maurice Asperti, fusses over his wine selections. And it shows: His wine list features affordable decent bottles that he’s taken the time to test drive himself.
Several things could improve wine service on Staten Island, in my opinion. First, servers need to be educated on house pours. Wines shouldn’t be introduced as, “What’ll it be? Red or white?” Surely there’s a brand name associated with the wine. Wine discussions should happen at the restaurant pre-meal meeting. Second, customers can be more demanding on the subject and become, well, a wine snob of sorts. Start asking for the better stemware. Request that wine by the glass is served from a freshly opened bottle, especially if it’s early in the day and clear the bottle has been cracked the night before. Staten Islanders really need to fuss more over the standard pour.
Pamela Silvestri is the Advance food critic and Food editor. Her restaurant articles appear each Thursday in AWE, the Advance’s weekly entertainment section.
INFO BOX: Wine Etiquette Keep hands off the bowl of the glass. Wines can heat up from the action. Plus it leaves unsightly smudges on the glass. Don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne. It tinkers with fellow diners/winos taste buds. Ask questions. If you’re indulging on a bottle, say, that is more than three years old it’s not unreasonable to ask how the wine has been stored. Drink wines at the right temperature. Nonvintage bubbly, many Spanish and Italian whites, fino sherry, Manzanilla should be served well-chilled. Full-bodied whites (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, some reds like Pinot Noir and Beaujolais) benefit from being cool, around 58 degrees. Medium to full-bodied reds and ports are ideal at room temperature.
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(Reprinted with permission from the Staten Island Advance)