Just inside the entrance to an Italian restaurant on a recent afternoon in the historic St. George neighborhood on Staten Island, the smell of soy and ponzu masked that of onions and garlic.
The source? A Japanese woman had taken over the kitchen to make gyoza and shrimp dumpling soup. “The dumplings are good!” said a customer at a table of seven, sounding surprised.
The next night, however, the dumplings would not be there.
At Enoteca Maria, an “Italian” restaurant on Hyatt Street, half of the menu changes daily. The fixed half is Italian; the rest is left for rotating cuisines from all over the world. And the people calling the shots are not professional chefs; they are grandmothers.
Each night, a “nonna” (Italian for grandmother) from a different country designs a fresh menu, honoring her native cuisine.