Well, after finally making a trek to Denino's in Staten Island and falling in love with their pizza, i've been hearing stories about "how it doesn't compare to such-and-such a place on SI" or that "it used to be great, but now is only 'ok', and now the GREAT pizza on SI is at ____". Well, i couldn't take it anymore and tonite did what i would call "The Great Pizza Run".
Our original plan was to go to Nunzio's, but as i started to search the internet and read reviews in an attempt to get psyched for great pizza, i heard a lot of great things about a hidden, undiscovered, gem called Lee's Tavern... decisions, decisions!!
Solution: We'll go to Nunzio's and split a pie, and then head to Lee's and split another one!
We make the trip from NJ to Nunzio's and located the place without a problem, but were a bit taken back when we found the place to be empty, there was only one table in the place that had customers seated, and this was at 6:45pm on a Saturday nite! How good could it possibly be if the place wasn't packed, like i'm sure Denino's would be at this hour. We stuck with the basics and had a plain cheese pie. The verdict: good, but it certainly isn't a "destination" pizza place! The crust was the right thickness but lacked flavor and crispiness, the sauce was good, and the cheese was fresh and creamy.... but the whole package didn't blend together. I liked the "no decor" style and the menu painted on the wall, but the pizza was only slightly better than average. We finished the pizza, paid the bill and hoped that our next stop at Lee's Tavern would better.
We drove down the road another mile making a few turns along the way courtesy of mapquest found our way to Lee's Tavern (hard to find as there is no sign outside the building announcing the name). Our hopes were raised as the place was pretty crowded, and we arrived at just the right time as a table was just becoming available from a departing family. I will paraphrase what a few others have said about this place which is entirely true and a perfect description, "It's a real neighborhood place, but you know right away it's NOT your neighborhood." We took our seats and waited for the one waitress in the place to take our order of a few drinks and a large pie, and i knew we'd be in for an even longer wait for our pizza as the place was full, yet only one table had any food in front of them! We waited patiently and finally a large (their description) pie was placed in front of us, and it's a good thing we just ate a pizza at the other place and weren't too hungry because i could have easily eaten this one myself. Their pizza is of a the cracker thin crust variety, ok cheese, and a slightly chunky sause on top of the cheese. Not bad, but once again, nothing great, and certainly not worth the bridge toll to get to.
We proceed to head home and as we get about 3 blocks from Lee's Tavern we see across the street "Goodfella's Pizza, 'Voted Best Pizza in America". We each talk about our level of stuffedness (<--my word) and figure that if it is indeed the best pizza in America we certainly couldn't pass it up, and we better try it now as we're not likely to be returning to the area for the other two places. We walk in and split a bar pie to go which we ended up eating in the car. Although the pie looks good, it's SEVERELY lacking. It tries to be a Patsy Grimaldi type of pizza, but the pie really had NO FLAVOR whatsoever... except for the runny and slightly too spicey tomato sauce glopped on top which reminded me of the NYC chain "Two Boots" (which i'm not a fan of either). I commented to my friend that i don't believe they have the best pizza in America, to which he said he didn't think they had the best pizza in a 5 block radius.
SUMMARY: Staten Island does have some of the best, if not the best, pizza i have ever eaten, but it is only to be found at Denino's, and not at any of these other places that i sometimes hear about that are supposedly "better". Staten Island is not that convenient for me, but Denino's is worth the trip and what i classify as a "destination" pizza place, and worth the hassle to get to. If you find yourself in the area, don't waste your time at any pizza place other than Denino's, as it just isn't worth it.
Next big trip for pizza will be to another NY Island... Coney Island, for my first taste of Tontino's, which i've heard rave reviews about. Worse case scenario is that it's bad, and we'll just have to stop at Denino's on the way back home :)