Enoteca Maria ~ SI
Here's City Spoonful's review of a recent meal at Enoteca Maria. The gist: This place lives up to its gimmicky concept (a rotating roster of Italian nonnas from different regions cook their own family recipes).
Even the Italian in our group was impressed with the food, and meat-eaters and vegetarians alike enjoyed the fresh ingredients and bold flavors in our dishes.
We didn't get to explore the wine list, but it was encyclopedic and offered wines from small Italian vineyards that otherwise are hard to find in these parts. Definitely worth returning to check that out. Read on!
Enoteca Maria is not just another elegant wine bar with fussy, Italian-inspired small plates. The St. George, Staten Island, restaurant specializes in rustic Italian home cooking that even an Italian grandmother would enjoy.
That’s because nine Italian nonnas—grandmotherly women who hail from seven different regions of Italy—run Enoteca Maria’s kitchen on a rotating basis. Each day a different woman supplies the restaurant with a changing lineup of daily specials drawn from her own family recipes.
Owner Jody Scaravella advertised in a local Italian newspaper to recruit the current roster of nonnas, who come from Naples, Campania, Abruzzo, Vicenza, Milan, Sicily and Calabria.
"They do the first three to four pasta dishes [on the menu] and three to four main courses,” says Scaravella. “But everything on the menu comes from one lady or another over the past few years."
We started with the insalata di pera e gorgonzola (mixed greens with pears, gorgonzola cheese and a balsamic reduction), which perfectly married the tangy balsamic dressing with sweet pear and amazingly fresh, creamy gorgonzola.
The burrata con ciliegino combined burrata cheese (mozzarella with a creamy liquid center) imported from Puglia with sliced cherry tomatoes, olive oil and fresh basil. The tomatoes were extremely fresh—crunchy and sweet. The burrata was soft and creamy, though it could have used more salt to draw out its flavor.
The polpette (homemade beef and pork meatballs in tomato sauce) were garlicky and tender, bathed in a light tomato sauce seasoned with garlic and basil. The meat eaters in our group, who are not huge meatball fans, were blown away. (Full disclosure: Your humble reviewer, a vegetarian, owes the “meaty” portions of this review to the careful descriptions provided by her carnivorous dining companions.)
The recipe, we later learned, came from that day’s nonna—chef Teresa Scalici, who hails from Agrigento, Sicily.
The carciofi alla griglia (grilled artichokes) were also superb. First marinated in garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then grilled, the artichokes were crispy and slightly charred outside but perfectly tender, with a tangy flavor and a garlicky-smoky edge. The only drawback: The fibrous leaves were difficult to chew.
The recipe, which comes from Calabria, is one of Scaravella’s favorites and has been on the spuntino (small plates) menu since Enoteca Maria opened four years ago.
In comparison to the light, flavorful dishes that preceded it, the pizza margherita, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, was heavy, with muted, unremarkable flavors.
The ingredients—fresh mozzarella and basil, as well as house-made tomato sauce and dough—were clearly not the problem. Rather, the proportions and execution were to blame. The thick layer of melted mozzarella overwhelmed the tomato sauce, and the dough, though distinctly flavorful, was undercooked.
There were a few misses in our meal but many more hits, and we left impressed by Enoteca Maria’s innovative, multiregional concept—and even more so by the eatery’s authentic Italian home cooking executed with an elegant, light touch.
Photos posted at City Spoonful: http://www.cityspoonful.com/enoteca-m...
27 Hyatt St, Staten Island, NY 10301
I enjoyed my meal there.. I took my mother there on Mother's Day, felt it was fitting..
Here is my review
Yesterday was mother's day and we were looking to meet my family somewhere fun.. Staten Island seemed to be a good place to pick..
After a brief search on the inter webs, I remembered this place from the radio.. The concept behind this place is, they have a regular menu and then they have a series of Italian grandmothers come in and cook specials of the day.. Despite being a wonderful gimmick to get some press, it is just an all around wonderful idea.. And what better place to take your mother than a place where there is a grand mother in the kitchen..
The restaurant is small but, well thought out.. It reflected the quirkiness of the owner.. Marble subway tiles, interesting cieling fans and lighting.. It's very nicely done..
The menu is interesting.. Not your normal sort of of restaurant.. There are a ton of small appetizers and plates for the table.. We ordered a bunch and did not make a dent in the menu.. But they had a stuffed lambs head dish, they had pigs feet with beans, chicken feet in tomato sauce, a lamb testicle salad, grilled lambs hearts.. Not your average run of the mill menu...
We started with a stuffed pizza with broccoli rabe,sausage, and fontina cheese.. The broccoli rabe was cooked and chopped and served with a fennel sausage and a perfect amount of melted fontina.. This was terrific..
We moved on to stuffed clams. The clams were cherry stones, had a really hearty breading, the clam itself was cooked perfectly and super briny..
Stuffed Artichoke was another very well done dish.. Large artichokes, lots of stuffing, whats not to love..
Bruschetta toast.. They used cherry tomatoes.. Long strips of crunchy bread.. I tasted dried oregano that I could have done with out..
My mother ordered the homemade tagilatelle.. This was made by one of the 6 grandmothers that they have in the rotation.. She hailed from Naples and this dish was really lovely.. I believe it had mushrooms, cooked ham, and pancetta in a red sauce that had a touch of cinnamon in it. The homemade pasta was cooked perfectly.. She loved this dish..
Miss K ordered Rabbit cooked in foil.. They even included the head in this dish.. She devoured the entire thing.. Cooked with white wine and cherry tomatoes.
I ordered the veal tails with peas.. Veal tails cooked to they were falling off the bone.. Served over peas, this was a lovely dish.
My father ordered branzino cooked in foil.. I felt it to be a little bland but, cooked well..
For dessert, we ordered the nutella ricotta cheese cake.. The cake was delicious and very interesting.. We couldnt figure out exactly how it was made.. definitely lots of egg whites and some sort of souffle top.. All that aside, it was fantastic..
The owner is extremely nice and casual.. When we first came in, he came over, sat at our table, put his arm around me and we talked about wine, Italy, his restaurant.. He seems super nice, very passionate about food and wine..
We had a bottle of single varietal Sicilian White and then on to a pitcher of red wine wth some pears in it..
Very straight forward honest cooking going on here.. Everything is priced well, the owners and staff are nice.. I will certainly be coming back..
27 Hyatt St, Staten Island, NY 10301
I like their capuzzelle, which is very hard to find in Italian restaurants, and I love their burrata, which if not eaten within two days of production, loses its flavor. I would say that they are a must-eat place because of the fact that you are getting dishes made by actual nonne. Nowhere else do I think you are getting that.
This is maybe my favorite restaurant in my home boro, which is full of great Italian joints. Saturday nights get loud, especially when owner Joe cranks up the Led Zep or old Rod Stewart songs. I always trust his wine recommendations...he always has something interesting to try. Sunday nights are my favorite night to go now, b/c the vibe is a bit more mellow...and there's often a Sunday "gravy" simmering away back in the kitchen. Always, always check the website the day that you go, to see which Nonna is cooking. Joe can probably tell you who is cooking in advance if you call him for a reservation (which you should definitely do...this tiny place fills up).
If it's the nonna from Sicily, my vote is for her caponata, lasagna, manicotti, and polpettone.
27 Hyatt St, Staten Island, NY 10301
I've been there three times (it's convenient to the ferry and the St George theater) and enjoyed it each time. Of course, since you have different people cooking on different nights, there's bound to be some differences night to night. They seem to post the nightly specials around noon or so...
The wine list is quite interesting, and it's a friendly place. It is quite small, so I'd call ahead before venturing there-and I'd avoid nights when there's a show at the St George, as it gets slammed on those nights.
I have been there a couple of times and enjoyed the food. Not in the last few months though. They do have a terrific wine list of small-producer Italian wines you are not likely to find elsewhere, quite delightful.
I don't know if CH allows this, but you may want to check some recent concerns on the S.I. Advance (local paper) food board about loud music. Use the following URL and look for posts grouped under #7966. (Caveat: I don't know how much faith to invest in the local self-appointed critics.)