As Williamsburg, Long Island City, Bushwick, and even Bedford-Stuyvesant become more gentrified (read: more expensive), New York transplants are asking the question: what is the next frontier? May I be so bold as to suggest Staten Island?
Yes, I said it. Though once the butt of every joke, I predict that Staten Island will be the next area that people will flock to once all of Queens and Brooklyn become prohibitively expensive.
Hear me out: the SI Ferry is only 20 minutes from the Financial District, free, and arguably the most reliable form of public transportation in New York City. Not to mention the luxury high rises being built in St. George and the much-anticipated ferris wheel being built in Staten Island's downtown area.
My friends, it's time to bust out of those other more urban boroughs and embrace Island living.
As a lifelong Staten Islander and lover of food, I would like to welcome all newcomers with the first Foodie's Guide to Eating Italian on Staten Island.
Pier 76 - $
A short walk from the ferry terminal, Pier 76 offers a low-key bar scene connected to a fantastic pizzeria where you can get the perfect thin-crust slice of pizza to go with your draught.
Enoteca Maria - $$$
For a more upscale dining experience, try Enoteca Maria. This wine bar and restaurant is also a short walk from the ferry and serves more traditional Italian fare—and I mean “traditional.” Instead of chefs, the restaurant employs “nonnas”—Italian grandmothers—from different regions of Italy to curate and execute the rotating menu. Word has it that the restaurant is expanding its cultural base and bringing in nonnas of all nationalities to diversify their cuisine. (photo credit: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2012/03/20/nonnas_wide-c74b6d4745423618bcc5f3d8001c3dc855cb86de-s900-c85.jpg)
Denino's Pizzeria & Tavern, Ralph's Italian Ices
It wouldn’t be a proper guide to Island eating without mentioning these two staples. Denino’s has been serving up it’s famed pies since 1937 and has garnered the attention of many pizza critics in NYC and across the country. Skip dessert and head across the street to Ralph’s for an Italian ice. Before you brush this off as another run-of-the-mill Italian ice place, order original flavors such as Rainbow Cookie or Jelly Roll and prepare to be hooked. (bonus: If you find that you can’t make the trip to Staten Island, Ralph’s has another location in Murray Hill). (photo credit: Alyssa Belcastro)
Royal Crown Bakery - $$
One of my favorite places to have a quick lunch on Staten Island. A panino will run you about $10, but it comes jam-packed with quality cured Italian meats, so the sandwich will probably last you two meals. Not a meat eater? Ask for a slice of their Sicilian pizza. Royal Crown also dishes up a wide variety of Italian cake and pastry for your next party, or if you just want to take a cannolo or two for the trip home. (psst - don't have a car? Take the R train to Bay Ridge and visit Royal Crown's sister bakery, Paneantico, on 92nd St & 3rd Ave) (photo credit: SIlive.com)
Pastosa Ravioli - $$
After you’ve told all of your Manhattanite and Brooklynite friends about your glorious trip to Staten Island, they’re going to want some gustatory evidence. Enter Pastosa Ravioli. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Pastosa ships their ravioli all over the city, and even to South Florida—that’s how much people can’t live without these homemade stuffed pastas. Pastosa also has a great selection of Italian meats for when your mother-in-law comes over. (photo credit: Yelp)
Piece-a-Cake - $
Ok, so this isn’t exactly an Italian bakery, but it’s sort of a hybrid and a place that I can’t really live without, so I had to include it. Piece-a-Cake is the third establishment from the owner of Cake Chef, a bakery beloved by Staten Islanders. Unlike it’s parent, Piece-a-Cake is also a sit-down café open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. I’ve been here at all times of the day, and probably twice in the same day at one point. Try the Red Velvet Cupcake milkshake, German chocolate cake, the “slutty brownie”, the Italian egg sandwich (fried egg, pesto, and homemade ricotta on a croissant—what more do you need in life?), the “Sloppy Gino” sandwich…I could go on forever! (photo credit: Facebook)
Brioso - $$$
Another fine dining experience, Brioso is a place I’ve come for many a special occasion. The owners are fresh off the boat from Italy and this restaurant sticks to simple and classic recipes done really well. The polenta with sausage ragu never disappoints! (Photo credit: Facebook)
Da Noi - $$$
OK, another fine dining experience which is pretty deep on the Island. I mostly included Da Noi because they end all of their meals with sweet potato croquettes lightly dusted with powdered sugar, and, can you really think of a better way to end a meal? (Photo credit: Google Images)
La Bella Marketplace - $-$$$
I truly saved the best for last. I like to call this place “The Eataly of Staten Island”, because pretty much all of the products, besides produce, are imported from Italy. What it lacks in ambience, it makes up for in low prices and a hassle-free shopping experience. Whether you’re shopping for Feast of the Seven Fishes or a regular Sunday dinner, La Bella is sure to have everything you need plus something extra special to impress your guests. Go for the wide selection of Italian cheeses, olives, meats, pastas, olive oils, Balsamic vinegar, coffee, cookware, fish…need I continue? And if you’re looking for that hard-to-find ingredient (ahem, chestnut flour? 00 flour for that NYTimes pizza recipe?), look no further than La Bella. (Photo credit: www.labellamarkets.com)
Dana is a 4th year medical student living in New York City. She is a native Staten Islander and lover of food and cooking. She collaborates with the Foodie Tribe influencer network (www.foodietribe.org) and can be found on Instagram at @theresidentgourmand