Scaravella got his first recruits by placing an ad in an Italian newspaper seeking “Italian housewives to cook regional dishes,” but over time, his roster has grown by references and word of mouth. “I talked to everybody when somebody gets in, we talk about the concept, I always ask them if you know somebody who wants to cook,” he said. “The concept has just mushroomed.” Though some nonnas are Staten Islanders, most come from Brooklyn, with some traveling from as far as New Jersey and The Bronx to cook at the restaurant.
While the nonnas are the big draw, the restaurant also employs one male “nonno,” Giuseppe Freya from Calabria, who makes all the pasta. “He makes the raviolis, he makes the ricotta gnocchi, he makes tagliatelle, he makes the pasta sheets for our lasagna,” Scaravella explained. “He’s fantastic.”