We decided to meet at the Staten Island side of the ferry. Only 25 minutes from port to port and what a nice ride it is. I rode the ferry for the first time only a few days before the Staten Island Pizza Tour, now I embrace any excuse to visit again. Oh, we found some.
Our first stop was Denino’s. First thing I thought was wow, it’s dark in here. My eyes finally adjusted to the light and we adjusted to each other. We knew what we wanted, one regular cheese pie. But eyes and rumors got the better of us for this first stop.
The pie was completely satisfying first and foremost. It took a while to come to us, but I figured this trip was going to be more of a family restaurant experience – so we’d be in for more of the same the whole day. We were.
Some of the wafting scents from other tables baited us for a buffalo pie, but no, we were on a mission that day – and 3 pies at the first pizzeria would be idiotic overkill. For ours, the regular and the clam, the crust was neither fluffy nor overly crisp. Satisfying though.
It’s nothing outstanding, and best in the city or even Staten Island is a tough claim to make. Yes or no, I liked it and would be happy to eat here again and again.
Joe and Pat’s
I was surprised when we walked in, this is no bar and it’s no bar pie. Apart from labels, the operational difference is a rotating oven, rotating like a wheel standing up. Timing, evenness and floor space are solved with this contraption. It’s a great set-up. Pretty and organized. You can tell how meticulous the owner/management must be.
I’ll just come out with it: Joe and Pats is a remarkable slice. One of the first thoughts after picking up the slice was ‘I can’t bend it.‘ A fold would break it easily. That’s fine, I quickly learned to appreciate it’s open face. Every bite was different; at times it was the smooth sauce and others the elastic, thin, soft and yet full flavor cheese. All this reaching the very end of the crust.
I can’t recall having a pie that could be compared to it’s dynamic of stiffness, cheese, sauce and pleasantries. I respect anyone who claims this to be Best in Staten Island or even Best in the City. For me, it was top 2 in SI. Tops of the old school by 2 car lengths.
We went ahead and got the Jimmie Max Special which is advertised for the “Pizza Connoisseur”. We justified ourselves because it was all the normal ingredients of a “regular” pie just with more adjectives: “Our own fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, freshly chopped basil, extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated pecorino romano cheese”
Among thoughts of ‘how many people really order this?’ and ‘hmm, this is a lot of white on this slice’, it was definitely polarizing. And that was what this tour is about. Some in our crew loved it and some hated it. I thought the cheese blended nicely into the crust and the dotted tomato sauce popped out at my tastebuds.
That being said, We weren’t at Jimmy Max for the connoisseur pie, the bulls eye was what I experienced at the exploratory tour. So we turned down our noses, ordered a bar pie and tried to strike up a conversation with the staff about the Staten Island Little League team.
*Note: The pizza pictured is from my exploratory tour (which I preferred to our actual tour pie).
No sign on the front. I guess this is Lee’s Tavern
We took a seat to the rear and spanned the dining room with us 7.
What seemed most remarkable was that this was produced by a bar. It is a bar primarily, and I understand that. But that didn’t really matter, save the boozing for another time. One pie for the lucky seven.
I prefer it to Denino’s. Obviously in the same league though. Is this what a Staten Island pizza is? I still am not sure, but I appreciate the Island and want more.
Here it comes…
Now, you know I love to wax poetic about eating and saying I am a romantic about my pizza is an understatement. But Salvatore of Soho exceeded every expectation I had. I’ve been reading about the shop for a bit, and like other places, I thought it was just another hyped mid-level best-of magazine filler. No, this is different. This is very different. Di Fara’s is not going to be around in 5 years. If Sal keeps this up, I expect it to be the new mecca of the pizza pie. When does Armageddon come? Is it the second coming or the third?
Before we ate and just after our eyes started salivating, we were given the tour of Salvatore of Soho by the owner. Showing us around the shop, he rattled off years as we went past antiques. “1920′s fan, soap box from 1900, see that record player? Notice all the tiles and fixtures, all like it was 100 years ago. This is how it used to be”
Salvatore showed us the coal and gas hybrid oven. The pizza dork that I am quizzed him on the legality of it, after I’d heard stories of the glorious find of Anselmo’s which allowed them to make pizza from the ancient coal oven they found lingering for ages in an old building in Red Hook, analogous to the barn car finds our fathers told us.
He described the misinterpretation of the grandfathered coal oven clause, which I was under the impression that the city no longer allowed coal ovens to be built. He has no family lineage. The part which makes it illegal is the emissions. If there is no coal spewing out, then they won’t be shut down. His custom oven, made with parts courtesy of NASA, keeps the coal particles inside the oven burning efficiently. No coal fumes out the flume. It’s all in the pizza.
One thing was apparent: This was his dream parlor. This is a man who created something and was not afraid to fail. He obviously spared no expense in making what he thinks everything a pizza shop should be.
This is the pinnacle of pizza. The all-encompassing coal taste is unmatched by anything I’ve had. This man, Salvatore Ganci, has utmost integrity with everything Salvatore of Soho. He uses what he thinks (and I would not argue with) are the best ingredients with meticulous preparations – and it shows. The staff and even clientèle were friendly and like a classic Italian provider, they keep feeding us and feeding us – a circumstance not unique to our pizza tour, as rumored by other patrons. I could not ask for more. Oh, and the white pizza is ridiculous. They use a cannoli-esque ricotta cheese. The char, smooth and sweet of this pie completely knocked me out. And after eating 8 slices, rice balls, and pasta, I ate another slice of the white pie.
Not only about pizza, as far as an Italian restaurant goes, this was also above most others.
I didn’t want to make this pizza tour about finding The Best in the City or to make it a competition between the boroughs. But eating at Salvs definitely foments the issue.
Every pizzeria that Sunday was wait-serviced. I would have loved to mix it up, but it just didn’t happen that way. There are more pizzerias I’d like to try in the area and I am glad that I opened myself and hopefully some others to Staten Island.
On the SI Pizza to-do list: Ciro’s, Goodfella’s, Larocca’s Italian Ices & Pizzeria, Giovannis Cafe, The Pizza House, Trattoria Romano, and much more. Staten Island still has plenty of mystery to uncover.