Last weekend I set off with biking buddies Anna and Etan to do a Staten Island bike ride to the major Staten Island pizza places. Nunzio's, Denino's, and Nucci's, as the most commonly top-rated SI pizza places, were on the itinerary. Pat & Joe's was a little too far off the route, but I want to hit it next time.
It was a fast seven mile ride along the south shore waterfront from the ferry to our first stop. Nunzio's is on a very busy suburban-esque intersection. There's a sit-down restaurant, and a separate entrance for take-out. At first glance it looked like we were going to have to chow our slices on the sidewalk, but then we saw that there was a long counter inside the take-out entrance. Etan spied on the kitchen and reported back that their cheese method is to cut the cheese into blocks, rather than grating it thinly on top - a method that supposedly keeps the cheese from breaking down as fast at high temperatures. The slice was decent, but the crust was too thick for my taste. If I want Sicilian, I'll order Sicilian. But the hand-grated parm on the counter was a nice touch, and there was a basil leaf baked into each of our slices that was delish.
Back on our bikes. On the way to Denino's, we saw a decrepit brick building covered with graffiti. Of course, we had to explore. We thought it was a state institution called Willowbrook that was shut down in the 80s, but it turned out to be a poorhouse, as in what you read about in Dickens, as in the forerunner to the shelter system. Stay posted for more on this.
By the time we got to Denino's, they were no longer serving slices (when we got there they told us they only serve slices until 3pm). That was a bummer. Denino's been around since 1937, and definitely had the best Island atmosphere of all three places. But all of us had neglected to bring lights for our bikes and it was getting dark, so we hauled ass, courtesy of Etan's GPS gadget, to our third and final stop.
Nucci's was in a small suburban strip mall. The teenagers working there made me flash back to my own suburban childhood, but luckily for all I didn't start crying. The pizza was excellent. Thin crust, good sauce, good proportion of cheese. More hand-grated parm on the counter. Is this a Staten Island thing? Regardless, I like it.
So. Bottom line? Staten Island didn't quite live up to its pizza hype, but it's got a damn fine slice if you happen to be there. And if you can combine it with some urban exploration, even better.
Photo at Nunzio's by Anna Le Mon.