Tag Archives: Staten Island

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

JOE & PAT'S, 1758 Victory Boulevard (between Manor Road and Winthrop Place), Castleton Corners, Staten Island

In my hit music video Empire Plates of Mine, I make a joke about Staten Island. I say “Never been, but Staten Island’s gotta have some decent food.”

Gothamist gave me some criticism for being oblivious to Staten Island’s food scene. The truth is I had been to Staten Island and tried some great food. The lyric was just a playful joke (Staten Island is always the butt of NYC’s jokes). But the embarrasing truth is I’ve only been to Staten Island for pizza.  I know there’s a world of food options out there beyond the free ferry, but I’ve yet to explore it.

So a few days after the article ran, I decided I do need to get out to Staten Island more often. I know that the borough is known for its vast ethnic food (specifically Central American and Sri Lankan), but I couldn’t resist checking out one more of the legendary pizza spots I had yet to visit.


Category: Pizza


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.

There are so many pizzerias in this city and there’s just no way I can get to them all. Unless I plan on eating nothing but pizza for the next few years. And as tempting as that sounds, I’ve got other plans.

But I can hit up all five boroughs and seek out the most popular options in each. So my last untouched borough was Staten Island. It’s certainly the most difficult one to get to and really seems like its own little world. People don’t go to Staten Island and the ones that are there don’t leave it. That’s not exactly true, of course, since there is quite a commuter crowd every day on the Staten Island ferry. But it does seem self-contained and a bit idyllic in parts.

I hadn’t been on the Staten Island ferry (or in the borough itself) in quite a few years so this was a true adventure. The ride itself is a free twenty-five minute tourist-laden boat ride with beautiful views of both the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. There’s also a concession stand where you can order dirt cheap beer. Oh, if only they opened one of those on my daily commute, the R train.

We docked and took the ghost train of a subway to Grant City. There were nice houses, busy suburban streets and parking lots. I guess people don’t walk too far in this borough. This didn’t seem like New York at all. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. But the one reassurance I had that I hadn’t strayed too far from home was the overabundance of pizzerias.

The first one I discovered was Nunzio’s, which is both a sit-down restaurant and a slice joint. The exterior seemed like it could be in one of those shopping centers surrounding a mall. It really felt like I had stumbled upon suburbia.

Adam, the guy who helped us, was sarcastic, friendly, and snarky all at the same time. He had a lot to say about pizza and living in Brooklyn and commuting to Staten Island (why the hell he does that, I have no idea!!) He was amusing and fun (he must have come up with all those jokes over beers on his ferry commute) and kept us entertained.

But he couldn’t distract me too much from the pizza. The  slice has to stand on its own without all this witty  banter. I admit, I was a bit turned off at first by the  regular slice because part of the cornicione (end crust)  had been torn up a little. It looked like somebody left a  big thumbprint. Not sure what happened there, but  Nunzio’s wins no points on presentation.

The dough was very tender, but didn’t have much of a char. The tomato sauce was flavorful and  well-proportioned. The cheese tasted a bit sharp (I learned that it was thanks to seemingly i  invisible pecorino romano) and was overly melty (reminded me of a grilled cheese).

It wasn’t the best I’ve tasted, but it had some great qualities (the dough in particular). We were  ready to head on our way since we had another pizza stop today, but Adam refused to let us  leave without tasting the Sicilian slice. He swore to me it would be better than whatever pizza I  would be tasting at my next destination. Well, the kid sure knows how to make a sale. He  earned the company another 2 bucks.

And he also earned my gratitude. I’m not sure it was better than our next stop, but it was damn good. Probably the best Sicilian slice I’ve had on my entire journey so far. The dough was heavenly – both buttery and fluffy with a bit of a crunch. The tomato sauce and cheese were great and I was frustrated with myself for not having ordered this slice first. I couldn’t have two slices since there was more pizza to be had today. I have to maintain my girlish figure somehow, you know. Wait a minute. I mean, my manly figure. My manly figure.

So I finally crossed the bay and ended up on another island full of delicious pizza. They seem to be everywhere in this part of the world. And I’ll tell you what, they taste better than any pizzeria surrounding your local shopping mall (unless you happen to be a resident of that suburban heaven known as Staten Island).

Is Nunzio’s the best pizza in NY? The Sicilian slice was truly outstanding with lots of flavors and along with their hospitable employee wins this place a few extra points giving it a 7 out of 10.

Category: Pizza

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