Jody Scaravella grew up in a close-knit Brooklyn-Italian family. When several relatives died within a short period, he felt unmoored. So he moved to Staten Island. Soon, a storefront near the ferry spoke to him. “Restaurant,” it whispered; “Italian family restaurant.”
He had no experience in the restaurant business, so he sent out a call for Italian housewives to help him set the recipes. What he found was a gaggle of grandmas: nonnas in Italian.
With a core group of 10, from different regions in Italy, he opened Enoteca Maria, a restaurant named after his own mother. The nonnas each hold forth one night a week. They re-create the dishes they learned to cook from their own families. It’s an enterprise that is as much about tradition and family as it is about cooking. The nonnas link the past to the future.
Scaravella’s lead-from-the-heart enterprise was an immediate success. And why not: “If I had a choice between going to a five-star restaurant and going to Grandma’s house, I’m going to Grandma’s house,” he says.