Anyone ever hear of an Italian restaurant with rotating Italian mamas as the Chefs?
I saw a story on a little place, I believe in NYC or Brooklyn, where different Italian ladies/grandmas from Italy, take turns cooking on various nights. I can't remember anything else about it. Ring a bell with anyone?
The place is Enoteca Maria, and it is really one of the few spots on Staten Island that is worth the trip. I have been twice and had excellent, decadent, inventive meals both times. The service was spotty on our second go-around, but the quality of the food more than compensated.
It is not your typical red-sauce Italian that is so ubiquitous on Staten Island. There is nary a chicken parm dish in sight, and the diner is that much better for it. The options range from the well-executed simple dishes (without being considered 'staples') think perfectly prepared homemade meatballs, to the downright adventurous - think lamb testicles marinated in balsamic (surprisingly tasty!)
Their winelist is a lovely well-edited showcase of Italian gems as well.
The place is small, so a reservation behooves you, and it is cash only, so be aware.
Also, it is a short doable (five minute) walk from the ferry, so is genuinely feasible for Manhattanites looking for something different.
I went for mother's day a few years ago.. it was a great time, 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..