Dear Food Diary:
I know what you’re thinking, all the way to Staten Island for food? Totally understand, I never thought I would say this either, but I truly found this gem a ferry ride away.
People who are lucky enough to have a Nonna (Italian for grandma) always brag about how great their meal was. I’ve always been jealous. Tried inviting myself to such dinners, unsuccessfully. But hey, their nonnas got nothing on me now, I found 6 nonnas who will cook for me any night of the week at Enoteca Maria… beat that! Love owner Joe’s concept of having a different nonna cook traditional, local dishes from family recipes each night. Every nonna is from a different region in Italy and everything is made fresh from scratch.
The night we were there, nonna Adelena from Casola, Napoli was our chef behind the open kitchen. When someone makes their family recipe for you, it feels like their sharing a part of their life on a plate, those are some of the best eating experiences. Her passion for food truly shows in her dishes and I truly enjoyed this “home cooked” meal.
While sipping on glass of Brachetto (sweet sparkling red wine), a complimentary plate of homemade focaccia and lightly sauteed vegetables was brought to us. Eggplant, zucchini and cabbage. Very fresh, seasoned ever so slightly to allow the true flavors of the veggies be the star.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also got a complimentary arugula, pear blue cheese salad. I love pear when they are ripe and in season like this, drizzled with balsamic, the sweetness of the pear with the slight bitter greens, creamy cheese and the flavors of balsamic worked beautifully.
For our appetizer, we got Adelena’s Parmigiano di Melanzane (eggpant parmesan). A baked goodness with layers of sliced eggpland, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, stacked between her magical homemade tomato sauce.
It’s all cheesy, gooey and her red sauce has the right amount of sweetness vs tartness. All tasted so fresh, it was like a mouthful of love. Funny thing, my friend wanted to go over and give her a big hug and kiss! LOL and proclaimed this was the type of lady he wants to marry someday. Yep, that good.
For my Primi Piatti I choose the Adelena’s Farfalle con Sugo Delicato, a bowtie pasta in a creamy butternut squash and ricotta sauce, topped with pancetta. The pasta perfectly al dente, the sauce is creamy and has a natural sweetness from the squash. I wasn’t in love with this one as my dining partner. I thought it could of used a bit more pancetta, in bigger chunks, to contrast the sweetness. These were cut too small and cooked too long, so it lost its bite and salty factor.
My friend’s secondi piatti was Adelena’s Gratinado di Pollo, rolls of chicken cutlet stuffed with fontina cheese, then topped with breadcrumbs and baked, with a side of garlic brocoli rabe. I don’t order chicken often, it’s usually too dry unless it’s a whole bird, so this was a total surprise to my palate.
It’s moist, super flavorful and the cheese gently pours out as you cut into it. Buttery, with bits of crispy bread crumbs here and there and tender white meat. It was a total food porn moment here. I ended up eating most of it while my friend had the pasta. It made me give chicken dishes all over another chance.
For our finale, we found Adelena’s Torta di Ricotta e Nutella irresistible. Think really good ricotta cheesecake with nutella and a crunchy chocolate biscotti crust. It looks heavy, but it was actually very fluffy and melted in my mouth without being too sweet. Chocolate and nutella just make every dessert better don’t you think?
Nonna Adelena got our hearts through our tummies, but we are looking forward to trying all of the other nonnas’ recipes in the very near future. This is definitely a place we’re gonna come back over and over again. It’s only a couple minutes walk from the Ferry and honestly on a nice day, the ride is very beautiful and pleasant, and did I mention it’s FREE!?? So do your tummy a favor, go sit down at nonna’s table will ya!?
P.S. Chubby’s RATING:
27 Hyatt Street (Staten Island)
5 minutes walk from Staten Island Ferry