I recently made my first post-Superstorm Sandy trip back home to Bayonne, NJ, to see Mom and Dad. The storm was a tough experience for them although it could have been much worse. Thankfully, they are now back to normal.
With the aid of the great Trip-It iPhone app, I laid out eight pizza stops for my brief stay. My first was to take my parents for a Friday lunch at Lee’s Tavern across the Bayonne Bridge in Staten Island. Blog-readers may recall an earlier post in which I reported that some local radio station listeners voted this place Best Pizzeria in the Tri-State Area—now that’s all of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut! This was certainly a place The Snob had to visit.
I have learned with Mom and Dad that the earlier I try to plan for us to do something, the more likely they will say no. I waited until the very last minute to suggest the $13-toll ride over the bridge to the Island. It worked.
Lee’s is in an easy-to-find tiny neighborhood just two quick turns off of Hylan Boulevard in the Dongan Hills area. When the GPS told us we were at our destination, I grabbed a parking spot on the street still not quite sure exactly where Lee’s was. Then I recalled reading about their not having a sign. I quickly spotted stacks of empty pizza boxes in a side window. This rustic looking corner bar was the place.
Lee’s is an old tavern, typical of one in the Northeast: dark wood interior with a large mirror behind the bar displaying their name. The barkeep welcomed us with a warm New Yorker greeting and made sure that we were properly seated. We sat near the back of the barroom seating area. I noticed another dining room off to the rear. I got to business quickly ordering a large cheese pie ($10) for us and a Chicken Caesar Salad for me. Telling him I had heard about their pizza and that we had never before had it (and having to stare down my Dad not to out me as The Snob), he told us that we were in for a big surprise.
Now for some history. It seems that “Lee” started the place some 70 years ago but the gentleman whose portrait was on the wall was the current owner. He started working for Lee as a busboy, and eventually worked his way up to buy the place. His name is Diego “Dickie” Palemine which explains why the honorary street sign on the corner bears this name.
Our pie arrived just after I finished my wonderful salad. It was an eye-opener for sure–thin and crisp, light on cheese with only small blotches of tomato sauce. I devoured my first slice savoring the fresh mozzarella and the tasty splash of olive oil on top. Man, this was awesome pizza despite being somewhat off tradition. The pie was quite crunchy. The crust was firm, not pliable, and it tended to flake off into little pieces when bitten. Regardless, it was delightful, and I even went so far as to eat all of Mom and Dad’s leftover crusts. Since it wasn’t too heavy, I think I could have eaten another whole pie by myself.
As for Mom and Dad, they weren’t too crazy about Lee’s pizza, but they generally struggle with anything different from the norm. The Snob, however, declares that Lee’s Tavern is a must visit for any serious pizza fan. I’ll be back for sure.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****1/2 Nearer Perfection
60 Hancock Street
Staten Island, NY 10305
[No Website, Slices or Credit Cards]