Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nonna's House by Jody Scaravella and Elisa Petrini





The subtitle of this book explains what it is:  Cooking and Reminiscing with the Italian Grandmothers of Enoteca Maria.  Don't know this New York restaurant?
Enoteca Maria takes great home cooking seriously. At this intimate, hospitable restaurant on Staten Island, all the cooking is done by ten nonnas (grandmothers), drawing on their own family recipes, handed down for generations, which reflect their regional traditions.
There are apartments and houses to rent in Italy that include the services of an Italian grandmother to cook your meals.  The restaurateur was seemingly not inspired by that to create his restaurant, instead, he explains in the book how it came about.  He was:
...looking for authenticity, to preserve vanishing traditions.




The Italian grandmothers come from diverse Italian regions, and their local specialties are respected, as can be seen in the mix of recipes in this cookbook/memoirs.  The restaurant aims to feel the primal connection between food and family, so the recipes are original family fare. 

I have to say that I found the memoirs parts of the book more interesting than the recipes.  There are hundreds (thousands?!) of Italian cookbooks in print, each with sections mirroring this cookbook's from appetizers to desserts.  But life stories of Italian grandmothers are a rarer read, and that is what we get in most of the memoirs sections about the grandmothers who cook at Enoteca Maria (named for the restaurateur's grandmother), life stories of real personalities, real people.





Most fascinating to me was how moving to America freed these women from stifling Italian convention.  They all express joy in being able to follow their culinary instincts to experiment with timeworn recipes.  They take advantage of time-saving kitchen equipment.  They improvise with seasonal ingredients.  They cook for pleasure, as a creative outlet. 

On top of all that, they recognize the liberation they enjoy in America, the freedom to earn a living, to divorce, to bring up their children as they see fit, to socialize and to embrace the excitement of living near New York City.  And all of the grandmothers, most of whom have had very difficult childhoods, embrace the convenience of American living.

Here is a great 8 minute video introducing the restaurant, very sweet and touching:


 




From the book's description:
This beautiful collection of food and nostalgia features great traditions from the heart of Italy, with delicious recipes and colorful stories from the internationally celebrated grandmothers of Enoteca Maria—a one-of-a-kind Italian restaurant where a rotating cast of nonnas are the star chefs.
Enoteca Maria takes great home cooking seriously. At this intimate, hospitable restaurant on Staten Island, all the cooking is done by ten nonnas (grandmothers), drawing on their own family recipes, handed down for generations, which reflect their regional traditions. Here are their delicious homemade pastas, risottos, desserts, and more, which have foodies from all over the world taking the ferry to the forgotten borough for an authentic taste of Italy.

Beautiful full-color photography captures the fresh, distinctive flavors of these surprising dishes. Nonna Cristina shares her beautiful Risotto with Strawberries, Black Pepper, and Parmesan; Nonna Margherita offers delectable Stuffed Peppers with Pine Nuts and Raisins; and Nonna Teresa shows off her prize-winning Meat and Cheese Lasagna. Nonna Elvira whips up her peerless Linguine with Cuttlefish and Ink; Adelina creates a savory Tagliatelle with Pumpkin, Sausage, and Chestnuts; and Rosaria makes handmade Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Cherry Tomatoes and Porcini Mushrooms. Nonna Carmelina shares her classic Potato Pie with Ham, Salami, and Mozzarella; Rosa confides her nonna’s secret recipe for Rabbit with Sage; and Nina saut├ęs Chicken alla Capricciosa, with prosciutto and mushrooms. Nonna Francesca launches the book with advice on the time-honored art of preserving everything from olives to soppressata.

With its utterly delicious tastes of grandmother’s kitchen, Nonna’s House is a legacy of flavors passed down through generations, now captured here forever. Restaurant founder Jody Scaravella says it best: “If I have a choice between a three-star Michelin chef’s restaurant and Grandma’s, I’m going to Grandma’s. I’m going to the source.”



Here is a direct link to the book at Amazon.com:





Please visit the restaurant's website.





This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.


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