Like so many New Yorkers, Brown and I can sometimes forget just HOW much there is to do in this city until we have a visitor. We have our routines, our list of restaurants to check out, stores to explore, but so rarely on the list is going to see a "tourist attraction", until a visitor comes in.
Luckily, we have Chubs. Chubs is my youngest brother and a colorful individual. He's quirky, sports obsessed, well-beloved among everyone he meets and is just a wild card when it comes to what he'll do or say next. When you meet Chubs, you get it. Bryan is his real name, but everyone knows him as Chubs, a nickname given to him by my middle brother; as a toddler Chris made up his own language and named him "Chubbub Bagoogie Boy Bagabe". Don't ask, we still don't know, but somehow the name stuck.
Regardless, Chubs comes to visit every so often for a weekend and experience the city. This time, he had just turned 21 and was very excited to go "party at bars". Our deal was we would go out to to celebrate, but it needed to be balanced with something "cultural", so we took him to Staten Island. I can't say whether he was excited or not, but we bribed him with a pizza adventure, which always works.
The Staten Island Ferry is one of those NYC gems that once you use it you wonder why more people don't go explore. Staten Island gets a bad rap, but it's definitely worth a day trip (or at least the ferry ride). How is it not advertised everywhere that the ferry is free and you get to get some great views of the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline? You could just get on it, see the view, take some photos and get off back at NYC-- for FREE. You can barely do anything for free. Clearly, I was amazed. Chubs was too, as he had never been that close to the Statue of Liberty. End point: go to take the Staten Island ferry, it's an awesome, underrated and free attraction.
Once we got to Staten Island, we boarded a bus that took us 20 minutes from the station. I know, it seems far, but there was a pizza battle we needed to complete. I had done my research and had my mind set to eat at Salvatore of SOHO, which looked delicious. Unfortunately, minutes before we left, I realized it was closed until future notice. A bit stomach-disappointed that my craving would not be fulfilled, I went back and forth, making a pros and cons list, until I said that we would just battle out two instead: Brother's Pizza VS Denino's Pizza. Chubs was up for this excitement and Brown was used to it. My fervor for foodventures (food adventures), can be a bit contagious.
First stop was Brother's. They are not usually thrown into the SI pizza battles, with Joe & Pat's, Lee's Tavern, and Denino's, but have won a lot of different pizza awards. It's located in a non-descript spot and looks like your run of the mill pizza joint, but you can smell the freshly baked pies from the bus stop two blocks away. Optimistic, we ordered a range of different slices: vodka, sicilian, regular and grandma. All were good, but their grandma was Queen. A garlic-y sweet sauce, crisp and chewy crust and fresh mozzarella cheese left us wanting for more. It tops the list of best grandma slices we've had and was worth the ferry and bus ride to get there. Bring cash though, they don't accept plastic.
Although we wanted a pie for the road, we knew we had another stop to make and headed to Denino's. A long-time institution among SI pizza-lovers, it looks more like a dive bar than famous pizza place from the outside. Stepping in, it still looks like a bar, but unfolds into a multi-room eatery and for 4PM on a Saturday afternoon, the place was packed with families, bar flies, and children of all ages. We sat down and ordered a margharita pie and some beer. This pie, although considered a "pub pie", is not your normal half-assed bar pizza. It was delicious. Piping hot from the oven to your table, its sweet crust and fresh mozzarella were hard to say no to even though we were full after one or two slices. Lucky for us, they boxed it to go and that long bus, ferry and subway ride back to Brooklyn? Well, we already had our snacks with us.
I'm not sure there's a big winner as they both had high points, but in terms of returning for more pie in the future? Denino's might win. For a place that does so much volume, you are treated and the food is prepared like a 10-table restaurant. Brown liked that it had that nostalgia factor too and brought back memories of pitchers of soda and pizza with cousins on the weekends. Plus, if you could corral everyone to get to Staten Island, it's a great sleeper spot for Sunday football. Chub's recommendation? All of it.-- Red