Grandmother bending over a stove

Hey Nonna! What’s for Dinner?

We all love our grandmas, nonnas, abuelas, or yayas. If they’re no longer with us, we miss their hugs, silly jokes and stories…but most of all, we miss their food.

Enoteca Maria is a restaurant in the St. George section of Staten Island that wants to bring back that feeling you got when Grammy used to make pasta, arepas or pierogis. Sure, skill was involved; a lifetime of cooking ensures a steady hand and a tasty output. But the ingredient that only a bubbe can add? Love. And you can find it right here on Staten Island.

The owner of the restaurant started what can only be described as a Visiting Nonna program when he was reminiscing about his mother’s mom, Nonna Domenica, and the impact she and her culinary traditions had upon his family growing up.

He started with solely importing Italian grandmothers, who each focused on the cuisine of their particular region of Italy. About four years ago he decided to spread the grandmére love and invite women from different countries to cook at his restaurant.

There are two kitchens at Enoteca Maria. One serves regional Italian cuisine from the nonnas of Italy; the other offers a second menu of a different grandma every night from any and seemingly every country in the world.

So where are they from? The West Indies, Brazil, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Bangladesh. Syria, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Kazakhstan and Greece. Phew! And that’s only a sampling of the far-flung cuisines you’ll be able to taste.

We really feel like this is an only-in-New-York thing. (Right?) Enoteca Maria’s hours are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to the last seating at 8:30 p.m. Be aware that the nonnas don’t start manning the stove until 3 p.m because they’re busy teaching classes! Every day one will teach a group of eager students their signature dish and enable them to experience her culture. And get this–it’s free! The only caveat? You cannot choose the nationality of your instructor. Head here to register for a future class.

The restaurant is a quick five-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry (which is a fun thing to do in and of itself). Remember to bring plenty of cash, as credit cards aren’t accepted.

Buon Appetito!

Image via Wutthichai Charoenburi/Flickr