New York News

Staten Island Eatery Features a Kitchen of Grandmas’ Best

By The Tablet Staff

STATEN ISLAND — We all know that nobody cooks like grandma, and nobody serves up dishes with a loving touch the way grandma can. And at one Staten Island restaurant, diners can feel right at home, thanks to the delicious meals that taste homemade and actually are prepared by grandmas. 

At Enoteca Maria, an eatery located a few blocks from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George, all of the chefs are grandmothers. Call it Grandma Gourmet! 

The grandmas work on a rotating basis so that Enoteca Maria can offer diners a variety of different cuisines — Italian one day, Japanese another, and Peruvian a third. The grandma chefs also hail from places like Egypt, Argentina, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan. 

The menu at the 30-seat restaurant changes every night so customers can enjoy the element of surprise. 

Owner Jody Scaravella said he wants his restaurant to be a memorable culinary experience. “People are missing their grandmothers and missing those times and their grandmother’s house and those meals and interactions,” he told Currents News. “And basically, we’re just trying to re-create that, and I think we succeeded.” 

Scaravella, who said he is always on the lookout for more grandmothers to cook for his customers, named Enoteca Maria after his own grandmother, Maria. Enoteca is the Italian word to describe a local wine shop. 

On one recent day, one of the grandma chefs, Maria Giallanella, was hard at work behind the stove preparing an Italian dish — zucchini parmesan and fresh cavatelli with sausage — just as she has done nearly her whole life. “I’m the oldest one in the family, so I made everything for myself,” she said. 

Giallanella grew up in Avellino, Italy, and learned how to cook from her grandmother. The family’s life revolved around church, and her mother served as the cantor and organist at the local parish, so young Maria’s kitchen tutor was her grandmother. 

Enoteca Maria isn’t the first eatery Giallanella has worked in. 

Her family owned a bar-restaurant in Avellino. In addition, she was educated in a convent for two years, and her deep Catholic faith still influences her cooking all these years later. 

“Jesus grew everything, food for everybody,” she said. 

Her cooking comes from her heart, Giallanella explained. 

“I like to make food because it’s like family,” she said, adding that cooking has changed her life. 

She loves to see people enjoy what she has made: “They say, ‘Thank you, Maria. You did a good job.’ ”