Tag Archives: Dongan Hills

My search for the best pizza in New York continues….

LEE'S TAVERN, 60 Hancock Street (at Garretson Avenue), Dongan Hills, Staten Island

I could spend months searching for the best pizza on Staten Island alone. Some people (mostly Staten Islanders) claim the borough is home to the city’s best. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only been to a handful of the pizzerias there, but little by little, I’m setting things right.

Lee’s Tavern has always been high on my list, but when I met somebody from Staten Island who urged me to add it to my bucket list, I decided to move it to the top. A bucket list seems a bit morbid at this point – I’m just going to eat pizza!

You immediately understand why it’s called Lee’s Tavern and not Lee’s Pizza. This place is a total dive bar. I never in a million years would have wandered into this unmarked bar and attempted to order a pizza. The bar itself was lined with big guys in baseball jerseys, the atmosphere was dark and dingy, and there was a faint smell of urine in the air. Was I really in the right place?

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Category: Pizza

SADLY, SALVATORE OF SOHO IS NOW CLOSED.

One of the newer pizzerias that gets talked about a lot in the press lately is Salvatore of Soho. Look as hard as you’d like in that fancy neighborhood downtown among boutique clothing stores and high end restaurants. But you won’t find this pizzeria on Prince or Spring Street or anywhere in the general vicinity of the area formally known as South of Houston Street. Because this pizzeria is not where it’s supposed to be. It’s not in Soho at all, but rather in the middle of suburban Staten Island.

The pizzaiolo, Salvatore Ganci (at least half of the name is correct) trained and worked at both Lombardi’s and Ben’s Pizza. So finally, we come to it. Those pizzerias are both in the Manhattan neighborhood of Soho.

Sal installed a custom-built coal/gas oven to make classic New York style pizza in his old-fashioned pizzeria. Now wait a minute. I thought coal  ovens were illegal in this city unless you were grandfathered in. Turns out the reason they’re illegal is because of the black pollution released from  the flume. Well, Sal’s oven uses a rotating floor and somehow prevents the coals from being released, making the oven hotter and the air cleaner.

We walked through the parking lot (I have a hard time getting used to parking lots in New York City) and made our way inside the pizzeria. It was  so cute with lots of ’50’s nostalgia and kitschy decor – old rock and roll looped on the sound system and the waitresses wore very short skirts that  resembled poodle skirts. I felt like I was at one of those theme restaurants on vacation. Well, I was on an island for the day after all.

The pizza arrived after taking more time than I had anticipated and they looked beautiful. They were incredibly crispy and charred (the menu  warned that they would be cooked well-done). My fingers even turned black from holding a slice. I looked like a construction worker or  something. Well, my hands did at least. I still looked like a bearded wimp who could lift no more than a loaded potato skin.

But I was lifting pizza today and this looked and smelled like classic New York pizza. And the taste exceeded my expectations. The Neapolitan was close to perfection. It was reminiscent  of Lombardi’s pie, but with a bit more cheese. It had so much flavor – tangy and slightly sweet tomato sauce, rich buttery mozzarella, a very generous sprinkling of fresh basil. And let’s  not forget that smokey char from the crust.

We also ordered their clam pie, which is a favorite of mine from Lombardi’s. I don’t think Sal’s was quite as good, but it was very close. It needed a little more cheese for me, but the plump  clams and garlicky sauce tasted like a great pasta dish. And when you throw in their perfectly charred crust, it doesn’t get much better.

In addition to great old-fashioned New York style pizza, Salvatore of Soho also offers some unusual options (like a fried calamari and hot pepper pie) and traditional Italian dishes. It’s clear they know what they’re doing and have learned from the best. Would I say it’s worth the trek out to Staten Island? Probably. But you can get pizza this good in Brooklyn and Manhattan – at Lombardi’s in Soho, no less. Now if Salvatore of Soho opened a location in Soho, then we might have a real pizza war.

Is Salvatore of Soho the best pizza in NY? They make really delicious pizza with an amazing char and fresh ingredients in a comfortable, family-friendly environment. It’s everything you could want from NY style pizza. If you’re in Staten Island, I’d say go. I give them a 9 out of 10.


Category: Pizza

Well, here’s a special occasion where I can check another item off my list AND continue my search for NY’s best pizza.

I was eventually going to make my way out to Salvatore of Soho in Staten Island to try their coal-oven style pizza, but after the clam pie appeared on the list, it happened maybe a bit faster than I had planned.

I wrote a blog post here on their incredible Neapolitan pizza and amazing thin crust charred crusts.

I had a clam pie (that just sounds dirty, I’m sorry) once before at Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in the city. It was a gutbomb of a pizza with amazing fresh plumpy clams, lots of garlic and cheese, and a garnish of fresh parsley.

Salvatore of Soho’s comes very close to reproducing the magic of Lombardi’s. Their clams are fresh and plentiful with buttery garlic flavors and an amazing charred crust. So if you can’t actually get to Soho (but you can somehow get to Staten Island), this clam pie is a pretty great alternative.

Would Salvatore of Soho’s Clam Pie make my Top 100 of the year? I’d probably put Lombardi’s up there first, but this is a more unique and less obvious choice. It gets an 8 out of 10because the pizza is great and the clam toppings delicious.


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