Following the wedding of my youngest son, The Kid, I travelled back home to Jersey with Mom and Dad. After we arrived at Newark Airport just before noon time and Uber-ed home, I put into action my fastest ever “plane-to-pizza” plan to put some food on the table.
This was my perfect opportunity to head over to Staten Island and bring home some pies from Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern. Consistently on “Best in New York” pizza lists, I was amazed to find on Google Maps that this legendary place (making pies since 1951) was a mere three miles and nine minutes from my childhood bedroom in Bayonne. The $13 toll to cross the Bayonne Bridge however would cost almost as much as one of the pizzas!
After crossing over the bridge (currently under renovation to raise the roadway for large container ships), I found Denino’s just a few blocks off the first exit in a small commercial district. Facing the street were both its original bar entrance and another newer one to the dining room. A police vehicle was parked in front despite the fire hydrant. I was immediately impressed to notice that the corner had an honorary street sign for “Carlo Deninio’s Way” similar to one I had seen at Lee’s Tavern.
Deninio’s hosts a big dining room adjacent to their front barroom. There is also a second newer dining room which today was serving a private function. I made my way past the “Cash Only” sign to the take out area in the back. I got in line behind the policemen and ordered two plain cheese pies (one size only for $13.50 each). When the waitperson echoed back “OK, two regular pies,” we connected in a way that only a true pizza lover could understand.
While waiting, I toured the room taking notice of the wall full of pizza awards and the graphics depicting Staten Island facts about its four bridges and famous natives. Most of all, I saw many happy late-lunching diners enjoying a fine-looking assortment of Italian dishes and great-looking pizza.
My pies didn’t take long, and soon I was taking two warm white pizza boxes to the car. My plan of trying a single hot fresh slice before heading back home was simply not enough. I know that it is against the law to use a cell phone in these parts, but I knew of no prohibition against eating slices out of a pizza box while driving. By the time I got back to Bayonne, my cargo was reduced to a pie and a half!
Denino’s pie is a masterpiece! In the style of the other great pies I have had on Staten Island, it was blatantly rock solid crisp and crunchy. (The slogan on their pizza box reads “In Crust We Trust.”) There was no attempt to leave these babies the slightest degree uncooked with char visible on both top and bottom. Both the cheese and tomato sauce were swirlingly sparse, but they were well-blended atop the firm thin crust. When you bite—it crunches. When you fold – it cracks. Pure pizza joy!
The top was coated with a healthy, but not overdone, layer of oil which was delightfully flavorful. The end crust carried a smattering of bread crumbs which added a further tasty touch at the finish. Plain and simple, this was as about as tasty and delicious as a pizza can get.
When I got back home, I wound up eating more pizza in a single settling that I had done in a long time. While I was glad I took the time to sample Denino’s pie while it was still hot and fresh, it sure aged well after the short trip back home. Mom and Dad can be tough critics, and they shared my love for this great pizza.
Staten Island’s Deninio’s is a worthy entry into the Pizza Snob Hall of Fame. A return trip will be well worth the surtax toll for the Bayonne Bridge!
P.S. They also have a joint down near the Jersey Shore in Brick if you are headed that way!
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern
524 Port Richmond Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10302