Staten Island Dining
by Julie Besonen, 07/31/2013
Joe & Pat's. Photo: Peter Borghard
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Denino's Pizzeria & Tavern
524 Port Richmond Ave., 718-442-9401, Elm Park, Staten Island
Joe & Pat's
1758 Victory Blvd., 718-981-0887, Castleton Corners, Staten Island
Denino's, a celebrated pizza joint with lines out the door on weekends, has been open since 1937. Up front is a tavern with sports on TV and a jukebox that favors Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Once you're ushered to a long table or tight booth, your no-nonsense waitress expects you to order pronto. Most people do, having come here for decades with no need to consult the menu. Everybody goes for the fried calamari—lightly battered, golden rings that are as habit-forming as popcorn. Paper plates are thrown down for the pizza, but the thin yet sturdy crusts barely make contact since this is a place where slices are handheld and folded New York–style; using a fork and knife here just looks silly. It's also not a place to worry about grape varietals: carafes of "Burgundy" and "Chablis" are $14. Pitchers of beer are just $11, presenting little problem in case you forget that it's cash only.
A troupe of guys briskly manning the pizza ovens is the first sign that Joe & Pat's pies are serious business. This beloved stronghold has been open since 1960, its upscale diner décor sporting a painted ceiling of a clouded blue sky and frescoed walls of Italian landscapes. Of course, every table should have a thin-crust pizza with classic toppings, but they've got other things down pat, too. Chicken cutlet parmigiana is pounded to schnitzel slenderness and is truly phenomenal. And just because pizza is coming, that doesn't mean you shouldn't stuff yourself first on savory zucchini sticks, fennel and baby spinach salad with pecorino and broccoli rabe with garlic and oil. Dominating the tables are multigenerational families and local football teams piling in after games but the space is big enough that you’ll rarely encounter a wait. Getting here without a car isn't easy, though if you're determined you'll figure out a way.