WHEN JODY “JOE” SCARAVELLA OPENED Enoteca Maria in 2008, he was sorely in need of a grandmother. Scaravella grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, where his Nonna Domenica cared for him while his parents worked.
“I remember her going to the market everyday, bringing her shopping cart,” Scaravella writes. “She stopped at the vegetable shops and bit a peach or tasted a cherry.” If the fruit was up to her standards, Domenica bought it. “Otherwise, she spit it on the ground with a disgusted expression on her face.” None of the shopkeepers complained about her trail of half-bitten peaches. Then again, the whole neighborhood knew Nonna Domenica, and who would dare come between an Italian grandmother and fresh produce?
These shopping trips sowed the seeds of Scaravella’s love of food, and his respect for the family elders, usually women, who pass down culinary heritage. It was this passion that guided him when, in 2008, freshly reeling from the loss of his grandmother, mother, and sister in just a few years, he decided to open up an Italian restaurant. But this wouldn’t be any old Staten Island red-sauce joint. Enoteca Maria would be staffed not by Michelin-starred chefs, but by Italian grandmothers.
Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: Nerfee Mirandilla, Unsplash.