(NewsNation) — Food brings family and friends together, and no one prepares a more heartfelt meal than a grandmother. One Staten Island, New York restaurant is gaining worldwide attention for hiring grandmothers from around the globe and making their generations-old recipes famous.
The language of food is universal.
Staten Island’s Enoteca Maria has created global connections over time-honored recipes like grandma used to make. Grandmas are still making them for diners after owner Jody Scar-Avella opened the 30-seat restaurant to honor his Italian heritage and the women in his life.
Women are invited and hired from around the world to make food with love, creating a cultural hub of home cooking.
“Our initiative is nonnas of the world, they come in and they cook their culture and cuisine,” Scar-Avella said.
The guest chefs are affectionately called nonnas, the Italian word for grandmother, and they heat up Enoteca’s kitchen three nights a week.
It’s not just Italian food served there. The menu features cuisines from each woman’s home country, from Brazil to Bangladesh, Colombia to Kazakhstan, Turkey to Tokyo.
“There’s about 30 ladies that rotate through. Some will come in once a year, twice a year, some of them more frequently,” Scar-Avella explained.
Guests will make a reservation once they know their favorite nonna is on the schedule. Some, like 88-year-old Maria Gia-Lanella, have gained popularity online as well. Gia-Lanella is on Instagram thanks to her cooking.
“I like to cook zucchini Parmesan, making lasagna, making sauces and ragu, pasta fagioli,” Gia-Lanella said.
An Italian immigrant who grew up in Naples, Gia-Lanella is well-known for her recipe for zucchini Parmesan.
“I’m making the zucchini like a lasagna,” she demonstrated. “I put the flour and egg and fry, OK, I make the sauce, put in the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of it, make the gravy to put on top.”
Scar-Avella said they’re always looking for new nonnas to add to the team. He only has three requirements.
“They have to be at least 50 years old, they have to be born in the country that they represent and they have to be good cooks,” he said.
For Nonna Maria, she said seeing people taste her food gives her so much joy.
“When I cook, I sing,” she said.
To find more about upcoming menu and learn about the restaurant, check out Enoteca Maria online.