Weekend Getaway: Grandmas Galore at Enoteca Maria in Staten Island

Julie Besonen
The Staten Island Ferry is free but I'd pay for it; it's such a thrill to cruise past the Statue of Liberty and end up in a borough that's a foreign land to me. Last night the weather was gorgeous for the crossing and further pleasure awaited our little group of Manhattan escapees. Up a hill from the St. George ferry terminal is Enoteca Maria, an Italian restaurant where grandmas from various regions of the old country take turns tailoring the menu every night. Sounds kind of kitschy but the concept is brilliant because now I want to go back and taste from every grandma's repertoire. Last night it was Grandma Loredana from Sicily, who didn't look old enough to be a grandma, but never mind. There was passion in her cooking, nothing slapdash. Baked peppers ($4) were filled with a robust blend of ground beef, bread crumbs, capers, olives and pine nuts. Four grilled artichoke halves ($9) were heady with garlic. Rigatoni alla boscaiola ($17) was swathed in a thick, rich bath of ground beef, peas and mushrooms in a creamy Marsala wine sauce. Spoiler alert for vegetarians! Lamb testicles, sheep's head (eyeballs included), veal tails, chicken feet and pigs feet are also on the menu. We weren't in an extreme eating, Anthony Bourdain frame of mind so selected conventional items like massive lobster stuffed with bass and bread crumbs ($28), whole, moist sea bass baked in foil with a lemony-herb sauce ($22), and fluffy risotto with shrimp and mushrooms ($16). There's also pizza but that's for another trip. Desserts ($10) are for sharing, such as a plate of brownies, blueberries and strawberries with a bowl of chocolate dipping sauce. Despite all the grandma references, Enoteca Maria is a modern restaurant in design (exposed brick, subway tile) and mentality, featuring produce from owner Joe Scaravella's organic garden nearby. My one beef? Servers were overeager to take my plates away before I was ready to give them up. Grandma wouldn't do that to me.

27 Hyatt Street, Staten Island (718) 447-2777 Cash only, closed Monday and Tuesday. www.enotecamaria.com

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