No, you dont need new contacts. You have reached Eating With Me, and yes, I’m writing about the foodie desert Island of Staten. But how do I do it without offending 499,996 residents and the entire state of NJ. Almost impossible for someone who spends much of his eating time in Brooklyn and Manhattan. But I do need to eat in Staten Island on occasion, and some gems do exist. This will not be one of those marathon posts because a) I dont really have much time today, and b) Its Staten Island!
The best way to examine the cuisine of Staten Island is to look at the map. is almost entirely attached to New Jersey, and a long bridge away (#16 longest in the world) from the rest of New York. It looks and feels like NJ in more ways than one. In fact I’m pretty sure the term “bridge and tunnel people”, a term now used in other parts of the US started in Staten Island. Staten Island is first and foremost a suburb with mostly suburb food. The inspiration for the post is really one place that we’ve been enjoying lately. A place that is painfully empty compared to the island “Power Houses”. But more on that later.
When you ask 100 Staten Islanders what’s good on the island, you’ll hear 115 (including some opinionated extras who happened to be in the area) saying its pizza and “Eyetalian”. Zagat, Eater and other online publications tend to agree when you Google Best of Staten Island. Its essentially one giant Italian/pizza fest. They are not exactly wrong, but not quite correct either.
Pizza – Yes, it is very good overall. Joe & Pats is a local legend for good reason and one of our favorites. So is Giove on New Dorp. Capizzi on Hylan, is dishing out solid individual Neapolitan(ish) pies, but not quite to the level of its sister in Hell’s Kitchen. Staten Islanders swear by Lee’s Tavern and its bar pizza. In fact Lee’s Tavern created an entire category for pizza (bar pizza) but not a destination pizza by any meand unless you are opening a bar and wants to learn a few tricks. Perhaps the most underrated pie in SI comes from Nonna’s in Great Kills. Plenty of solid options all over the Island, but today not quite in line with the brilliance of Manhattan and Brooklyn. These days you can even have a taste of SI in Manhattan through Rubirosa (Joe & Pats cousin), Denino’s in Greenwich Village, and the soon to come Joe & Pat’s of Staten Island in East Village.
Italian – Pass. Its essentially one giant “Little Italy”, red sauce orgy. Nothing really wrong with that, as many of them are actually pretty good at what they do. But its 2018 and SI still doesnt really have any sort of regional Italian-Italian cooking. Capizzi and Enoteca Maria are probably the closest and the only ones I would consider on the island today.
Mexican – Taqueria el gallo azteca in St George is not only the best on the island, but some of the best tacos I’ve had in NYC. You can combine it with New Asha nearby for a mini best of SI food crawl. The new half Peruvian Zabrosura is looking promising after my lone lunch. And the same goes for Tamales Martita which is attracting plenty of locals Mexicans, some of whom from the days when the owner used to feed the ball troops with her Tamale cart. Otherwise, some average to mediocre places throughout I wont mention.
Sri Lankan – This is where things start to get interesting, and perhaps the only reason to stay more than 5 minutes when you take that ferry. You got San Rasa, and Lakruwana (like a Sri Lankan museum) doing their thing in the far north, though my favorite ferry area joint these days is New Asha but its more of a quick lunch or take-out place. My overall favorite restaurant in Staten Island these days is a newcomer on Richmond ave called Randiwa. Chef/owner used to own San Rasa when it was at the old location. We go for the Mulligatawny soup, Lamb Curry with Hoppers, Lamprais, Deviled dishes, Chicken Biryani, and Kottu. Though New Asha probably boasts best Kottu on the island.
Asian – This is where SI is severely lacking. There’s really no good Chinese, Thai, Japanese or anything really. Just about 100% of them adhere to the western palate. With that said if you absolutely must, East Pacific in the SI Mall is decent for Thai and Chinese, and Ocean Sushi is our go to for acceptable cheap Sushi.
Misc – Bayou, Beso, Vida are fairly reliable palate pleasers. They are like watching Family Guy. I dont get particularly excited about going, but when I go, I enjoy myself more often than not. Vida and Enoteca Maria are consistently mentioned in the Michelin guide, but I doubt inspectors cross that bridge much. Inca’s Grill serves decent Peruvian but keeps moving around like nomads. Taste of India II is just about the only Indian on the island. Indian in general in Staten Island come from the school of “If I add a 2 in the name, it will sound more convincing”. There is no 1’s
That’s all I got. Many others I’ve been are not worth mentioning. And its entirely possible I’m missing some gems here, so let me know if I do
Why don’t you start a food tour to Staten island? I would love to do it?