10 Dishes That NYC Chefs Learned from Their Moms (and Grandmas)

We may be grown-ups with all manner of fancy restaurants at our disposal, but for a lot of us, nothing comes close to Mom’s homemade lasagna/pork fried rice/blueberry pancakes. (But shout-out to the moms who taught us the importance of knowing when to order pizza.) And if their menus are any indication, NYC chefs feel the same way. Here, ten mom-inspired dishes that are (almost) as good as our own childhood favorites.

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Grilled Tsukune At Bessou

These melt-in-your-mouth chicken meatballs are based on a dish made by owner Maiko Kyogoku’s mother. She never got the recipe, so she and her sister reverse-engineered theirs until it tasted just like Mom’s. Here, they’re grilled with a black garlic teriyaki glaze and served with soy-cured egg yolk for dipping.

5 Bleecker St.;

clay restaurant arepas
Courtesy of Clay

Corn Arepa At Clay

Executive chef Gustavo Lopez has fond memories of his mother making arepas for breakfast when he was growing up in Colombia, so the satisfying corn cakes had to make an appearance on the brunch menu, served simply with house-made ricotta or fancied up with duck confit, salsa verde and a poached egg.

553 Manhattan Ave.;

Sinigang Flip Bowl At Flip Sigi

The vibe at this fast-casual Filipino spot may be modern, but a few of its staple dishes have been passed down for generations. The Sinigang Flip Bowl (based on a traditional tamarind-based soup) and the Adobo OG (coconut fried rice topped with pork and chicken adobo) are both dishes that chef/owner Jordan Andino’s grandmother cooked for him regularly.

Multiple locations;

evelina fried zucchini blossoms
Courtesy of Evelina

Zucchini Blossoms At Evelina

The menu at this Fort Greene charmer changes often, but executive chef Lanfranco Paliotti has a few mom-inspired dishes in the spring rotation: saffron potato gnocchi with mussels (similar to a dish she used to make with fresh-caught seafood near their home on the Adriatic coast) and soft-shell crab with fried zucchini flowers (his mom’s favorite).

211 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn;

little tong noodle shop grandma chicken
Courtesy of Little Tong

Grandma Chicken At Little Tong Noodle Shop

You might guess this dish at the mixian noodle house is named after chef Simone Tong’s own granny, but in fact the name traces its origins to the matriarch of a fourth-generation restaurant in China’s Yunnan province. The hearty broth is enriched with black sesame garlic oil (hence its inky hue), fermented red chili, pickled daikon and confetti flower petals.

177 First Ave.;

Malloreddus Alla Campidanese At Le Fanfare

This beautifully simple dish is a specialty of southern Sardinia, where the owners are from. The gnocchi-like pasta, which reminds co-owner Giorgia Zedda of her mother and grandmothers, is topped with marinara, pecorino and a unique Sardinian sausage spiced with anise.

1103 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn;

Soy Sauce Quail At Tuome

Many dishes at chef Thomas Chen’s modern Asian-inflected restaurant are inspired by his mother‘s recipes, but this one’s adapted from one of his favorites: her soy-sauce simmered chicken wings and tea eggs, flavored with star anise and Sichuan peppercorn. Here, the dish is re-created with quail and served with smoked potatoes and mizuna (a peppery mustard green).

536 E. Fifth St.;

the sosta biscotti
Courtesy of the Sosta

Biscotti At The Sosta

The stereotypically stick-like cookies don’t get a lot of love, but chef and cofounder Ali LaRaia’s version, a riff on a recipe passed down from her mother (and grandmother before that), is baked fresh daily and irresistible even to “biscotti haters.”

186 Mott St.;

the eddy gin cured salmon everything toast
Courtesy of the Eddy

Gin-cured Salmon Everything Toast At The Eddy

Chef Jeremy Salamon pays homage to his mom’s favorite food: an everything bagel with lox and scallion cream cheese (a woman after our own heart). At the restaurant, the salmon is gin-cured and served with pickled ramp schmear, heirloom tomato and, of course, “everything crunch.”

342 E. Sixth St.;

Grandma Val’s Meatballs At Pig Bleecker

Chef Matt Abdoo is a wizard with meat, and now we know why: He learned to cook from his mom and grandmother, the latter of whom is the namesake for these sauce-smothered, Di Palo’s mozzarella-topped beauties.

155 Bleecker St.;

purewow author
Carolyn Kuang-chen Stanley


From 2016-2019 Carolyn Kuang-chen Stanley held the role of Editor covering food, travel and all things nyc.
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