Sunday, November 19, 2006

Staten Island Pizza Ride

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.


Native Islander said...

Nucci's! Give me a break.

On your next trip, be sure to hit Lee's Tavern on Hannock Street and Garretson Avenue. To save time, you can take the train (yes, Staten Island has a train) to Dongan Hills with your bikes. It's right at the train station. Pies only, but probably the best on the Island, along with Denino's.

Nunzio's seemed better before they renovated, and you ate in a shack.

Gennario's on New Dorp near Hylan Blvd has a good standard NY slice.

Joe & Pats is a nice hybrid of the standard NY slice with kind of a Denino's/Lee's crust. Also very good. Could take a while to get there from Lee's or Gennario's, as you have to go over Todt Hill, which is like 300 feet high. But by the time you get there, you'll be hungry again.

Good luck!

Erica said...

Gawd, that looks delicious!

Tricia said...

are there any support groups for people who grew up in the suburbs? i feel your pain.

v fun to meet you at j's the other night - and glad to see your lawyerly duties do allow you the time to keep this going. bien hecho! ;)

gina.garland said...

Definitely next time make it to Gennaro's and try Brother's too...