If anyone asks me which restaurant is my favorite Italian Restaurant, the answer will always be Enoteca Maria! Hands down. I discovered this lovely, wonderful restaurant several years ago, and I fell in love with everything that this restaurant had to offer; food, atmosphere, service, and the owner, Joe Scaravella. It is a small restaurant located just 10-15 minutes walk from the Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. It is great to take the free Ferry ride while looking at beautiful skylines of NYC, and Statue of Liberty. Then, off to have some amazing Italian food before heading back to Manhattan!
The restaurant is named after Joe’s mom, Maria, and “Enoteca” means wine library. Yes they do have lots of wines! This restaurant was created because Joe wanted to experience that “comfort of both food and feelings of grandmother in the kitchen, cooking up simple, old fashion recipes that was passed down from their mothers and grandmothers.” How awesome is that concept, and who wouldn’t want to have that great, tasty, comfort food cooked by a grandmother? And how did he accomplish this goal? By bringing in Nonnas – Italian grandmothers – to be his chef! So genius and I totally love it! They have different Nonnas each night, and they cook the “traditional” Italian food, plus other authentic Italian cuisine from where they are originally from. Because of this, their menu is different each day, it all depends on which Nonna is cooking that night. This means that you get to have something different each time you visit. And what is even more amazing? Since Nonna is cooking, everything is made fresh, from scratch! Nothing but quality here, done old-fashion way. The Nonna for this evening was Nonna Adelina from Casola, Napoli.
Ok, so let’s go inside! The inside is rather small, first thing you see is the plastic door curtain, then into a beautiful little space with high ceiling.
They have tiled wall to the right, and brick wall to the left, and good, clean contrast of dark and light with black-ish ceiling and chairs, and white-ish tables and bar counters.
Their bar is pretty with lots of wine glasses, and right next to the bar is a well stocked wine cabinet. And that gentleman at the bar was our waiter on this night. I haven’t seen him before, but I was glad he was our waiter, since he was awesome!
They have cute little Italian decorations, the Sicilian Trinacria, and interesting wooden thing with bell, I am not sure what that is, but makes me want to pull the string attached to it…
We sat at the table all the way back of the restaurant, right in front of their kitchen. From here, you can see the entire restaurant, and you also get to see their Nonna of the night cooking up yummy food!
We like to go to restaurant a bit early, especially if the restaurant is a really popular spot. By going there early, we get to go in when it is still quiet, and we get to appreciate their atmosphere and design, before the storm. This evening was exactly that, it was nice and peaceful when we arrived, but soon after, it was completely packed! Good food and warm service brings people together.
First thing they bring you is their complimentary sample plate and homemade focaccia bread. The bread used to be a bit bigger, or maybe we just got a small one this evening. When it is homemade, the size can change from day to day. I love their bread, it is so tasty, soft, airy and really comforting…
The sample plate of this evening consisted of squash, eggplant, and veggie garnish. They were all great on its own, or with focaccia. I especially loved the eggplant. It did’t look like much, but it was packed with flavor!
We ordered glasses of wines to go with our food. They certainly have an extensive wine list, and they only serve Italian wines. They choose small producers of Italy, so that you get to have more of the “local” wine flavors of Italy. Great concept! On this night, we chose Grillo of Angelo, 2014, Sicilia ($9/glass) and Falanghina of Antica Enotria, 2012, Puglia ($9), since we are interested in visiting Sicily and Puglia in the near future. Grillo has subtle citrus notes counterbalanced with nice lingering minerality. Youthful and bright, very refreshing. Great with seafood and salad. Falanghina grape is usually found in Campania, but in Puglia, it has more intense straw color with green highlights thanks to the climate and soil of the region. The bouquet if persistent and rich with fruty and floral notes. Both wines were easy to drink, sweet but not overly sweet, I really enjoyed both of them. And the wine glass was nice large size, and they gave us a generous pour. I was so happy, as you can see here.
We ordered couple of appetizers, which was more than we planned, but when you are faced with amazing menu, it is so hard to resist… We ordered Funghi in Crosta ($16) and Lasagna della Nonna ($20). One thing to note, since their food is made from scratch, and that no microwave is used in any of their preparations. This means that it might take a bit longer for the food to be prepared. On the bottom of their menu, it states “Part of The Slow Food Movement” to tell you this is not a “fast” food kind of place, which is kind of funny.
Funghi in Crosta is a Nonna Adelina’s baked mushroom cap, stuffed with roasted red peppers, zucchini and eggplant, wrapped in a pastry shell. When it came to our table, it was nothing like I imagined, but then again, I am not sure what I was imagining… I think I thought it will be several medium-sized mushrooms.
But, it was one large mushroom cap filled with fresh veggies, juicy with just the right amount of seasonings. The puff pastry was cooked perfectly, light and airy, yet moist and flavorful. I am really glad we tried it!
Lasagna della Nonna is one of their most popular dish. It is made with sheets of pasta layered with beef and pork ragu, ricotta and mozzarella in a tomato sauce. We have had this dish before, and it is so good each time. You get a mountain of lasagna, hot and steamy, straight from the kitchen. Each bite is filled with flavor, the pork ragu is juicy and comforting, and the pasta is cooked to perfection. The tomato sauce is also great, so different from anything you get from a store. My taste buds were all very happy.
For the main, we ordered Spezzatino ($20) and Pollo Arrosto della Casa ($26).
Spezzatino is made with blended bell pepper, onion, toamto and fresh herbs sautéed with oxtail, beef and chicken, served with rice. It looked a bit different from what I expected, but it was so, extremely delicious! Each bite was like a party in my mouth. The meats were all very tender and juicy, the veggies were almost melting around the meats, everything was just turning into one big explosion of flavor. Even the rice was really amazing, I enjoyed it so much! I was rather a large portion, it was mountain-full of it, that I could not finish the whole plate… I took the rest of them home and had the pleasure of having the delicious dish again the next day.
Pollo Arrosto della Casa was Chicken stuffed with ground beef, sausage, ham, fennel, apples, orange zest, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It also came with a side of broccoli and baked potato filled with veggies and cheese. This dish was also really delicious. The chicken and all its contents were cooked perfectly, packed with flavor. The broccoli was fresh and had great texture, potato was soft and the veggies inside added extra flavor that worked really well with the chicken. Just the small amount seasoning that allowed natural, fresh ingredients to speak loud of its quality. We also took some of these to go, as we were trying to leave some room for desserts as well.
With the generous and friendly owner, we got to enjoy their super fresh salad to go with these amazing dishes on the house. This salad was extraordinary, the freshness and quality of each ingredient were so amazing that each bite was incredibly refreshing. This is how the salad should be!
Why their salad is so amazing? The answer is that the owner of Enoteca Maria, Joe has a biodynamic micro-farm where he grows these vegetables, fruits and herbs. So, they get to have super fresh, high quality veggies and such from the garden to use in their restaurant. I hear this is the very first biodynamic garden in NYC. Quite amazing. really.
Finally, the dessert time. We were already pretty full, so we were planning to order just one dessert to share. But, with everything sounding so good, we could not decide on which one to order… So, we ordered two desserts, against the advise from our stomach. I knew my taste buds and stomach will thank me later. We ordered Torta di Banana di Paola ($10) and Pan di Spanga ($10). Torta di Banana di Paola was a sponge cake baked with mix of three milks and sweet mascarpone cream. It was so rich, creamy, velvety, just melt in your mouth goodness. It had a nice banana flavor, and had some chunks of bananas in them as well. The homemade whipped cream was really good too. The sweet crumbs and chocolate sauce was added bonus. Even though we were kind of full, this dessert felt light, and with its deliciousness, we had no problem finishing it.
The Pan di Spanga was a chocolate sponge cake baked with sweet strawberry mascarpone cream. When this one came to our table, we were surprised to see the chocolate cake sitting in a light blue colored cream. It was as if a triangle-shaped ship was floating on a water.
The cake was quite delicious, as everything I have had here has always been delicious. There were pieces of strawberries in the cream, and the blue cream was very good too. The sponge cake was dense and moist, the chocolate coating was solid and flavorful, and the cream was really smooth and velvety. We also didn’t have any trouble finishing this dessert.
We had cappuccino to go with our desserts, as they have a very good coffee here. With the desserts, you don’t need to add any sugar to the cappuccino, just enjoy the flavor of the coffee beans, alongside some comforting desserts! With all of these offerings with quality and service, it is no wonder that Enoteca Maria is #3 in the lineup of The Food Network’s top 5 Italian Restaurants in the country!
The service was really great, our male server took a very good care of us, and Joe came to our table to make sure everything was satisfactory. It is such a warm, cozy atmosphere, where you are invited to enjoy the great dishes cooked by grandmothers, and just enjoy the dinner time with your loved ones. So many of us go through days with such rush, it is important to remember to have these quality time with your family and friends, the way it used to be back in the days. Please bring your loved ones (and cash, as they are Cash Only establishment), leave your phones and other electronics devices off, and enjoy the delicious food with amazing company!
Another super interesting thing that they are doing is that they have a new thing called “Nonnas of the World.” They will have grandmothers from not only Italy, but from all over the world to cook the typical cuisine from where they are from, such as Bulgaria, Turkey, Ecuador, Shrilanka, etc. I would love to visit on one of these days and try out some interesting, authentic cuisine of the world, cooked by grandmothers! Until next time…
Enoteca Maria – 27 Hyatt Street, Staten Island, New York 10301