Excuse me for saying again what I have said before, but after having been to 27 pizza joints in the town of my birth, Bayonne, NJ, could there really be any more that I have yet to visit? Well, I was back home again looking for some new pie to try. Thinking back to when I was younger, I recalled how Bayonne used to have a bar on just about every corner that cooked pizza. So, using Google as my lure, and “Bayonne bar pie” as my bait, I caught The Starting Point Bar & Grille.
Locating it on the map. I realized that this place used to be Cavanagh’s Corner. While I don’t recall whether or not Cavanagh’s made pies, I do remember it as a place that hosted many softball game after parties when that sport ruled Bayonne. (Can you believe that today there isn’t one single league in town!) Further to my surprise was word from my brother that our cousin Billy bartended there on Friday afternoons of which this day was one.
I made my way to the far southwest corner of the city where the Starting Point stands in a small building under the shadow of the “under-elevation” Bayonne Bridge. Across the corner lies an eerie desolate area where the Texaco plant once stood. My thoughts went back to my grammar school days and our Geography textbook calling Bayonne “the world’s largest petroleum refinery.” How things change.
Making my way through the side door on the First Street side, I immediately hollered at the bartender. After getting my cousin’s attention, we spent a few minutes catching up before I ordered my large pie to take home. Looking around, I was surprised to see more of a rock music than sports motif in the main room. How things change.
It was after work and the place was lively with many people talking about one last fling down the shore for the weekend. I enjoyed the friendly welcoming atmosphere of the Starting Point and was surprised to see they also present live entertainment. My wait was a little longer than I expected, but I eventually said my goodbye and took my large pizza ($11.75) home to eat with Mom and Dad.
The standard for a Bayonne bar pie has always been the Venice. Cousin Billy tipped me off that the Starting Point pie would be just like it, and he sure was right. It was ultra-thin, crispy, lushly coated with a sheen of oil, and light on both the cheese and the sauce. It was also downright delicious.
By the time I got it home, it had managed to stay warm. It had been a while since I’d had one, and I had forgotten just how awesome a Bayonne bar pie can be. This one was just short of being a clone of the Venice in that it was not as charred, black and crisp on the bottom. Likewise, as I expected, it was floppy from being so thin, but its end crust was good and crunchy. Tasty all about, in a thin pie this this, it is however all about the oil—the true star that makes this pie shine so flavorfully.
Our pie was gone in a flash. Like an eating machine, I blazed right through it and couldn’t stop. I could have gone back for another and eaten the whole thing myself. It’s that good—light on the tummy but heavy on the enjoyment meter!
A Bayonne bar pie needs to be on any pizza lover’s bucket list and The Starting Point is a good place to try one. Take my word. But, as to whether it’s better than the Venice—that’s still a toss-up!
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****1/2 Nearer Perfection
The Starting Point Bar & Grille
2 Avenue A (at 1st Street)
Bayonne, NJ 07002
AS YOU SPEAK OF BAR PIES , THERE DIMIZE IS A VICTIM OF THR MILLENULS. I CAN FONDLY REMEMBER WHEN JUST ABOUT EVERY BAR IN BAYONNE MADE A BAR PIE. AND AT THE TIME OF THE 27 PIZZA JOINTS’ THAT YOU HAVE HAD THE GOOD SENSE TO FLUSH OUT THERE WERE PROBABLY 2 -3 TIMES THE NUMBER OF INNS AND TAVERNS IN BAYONNE. PERSONALLY, I WORKED FOR THE MAN WHO TOOK A SIMPLE BAR AND TURNED INTO AN OBJET -D ‘ART
THAT MAN WAS BIMBO CUSEGILO THE PATRON SAINT OF THE BAR PIE. I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO TEND BAR FOR HIM ALONG SIDE PAULIE CANCRO. HIS KITCHEN PRODUCED THOSE TENDER BREADED SHRIMP SWIMMING IN A SEA OF SPICY MARINARA SAUCE.
SIMPLY MADE BUT THE FLAVORS WERE SO REDOLENT THAT PEOPLE WOULD ORDER THE SHRIMP AND GET A BAR PIE TO GO
THOSE OF YOU WHO KNEW BIMBO AND HIS FOOD. WILL CONFIRM MY MINDFULL MEMORIES. BIMBO WAS NOT A GREAT BUSINESS MAN. BUT HE WAS A TOWER OF STRENTH IN THE COMMUNITY. HIS HEART WAS AS BIG AS HIS WAISTLINE … BUT NATURE AND TIME CAUGHT UP WITH HIM AND THE CUSEGILO BROTHERS BAR AND RESTAURANT WAS NO MORE..
BIMBO IS NO LONGER WITH US, BUT HIS SPIRT STILL SHINES BRIGHTLY GIVING US THE TIME TO REMEMBER THOSE LONG LOST DAYS
AS THE WHEELS OF PROGRESS MOVED ALONG IT REOPENED AS FINE ESTABLISHMENT
THAT ATTEMPTED TO CAPTURE THE WARMTH AND RESPECT THAT WAS BIMBOS…………… IT REOPENED AS PPPPPPPPPPPPASYS
Thanks so much Michael for this bit of history. I remember Cusegilo’s from when I was a kid, but don’t recall going there. Now didn’t Paulie later work at the Venice?
I surely miss the good old days and the great places for Bar Pies like The Sunrise, Patsy D’Angelo’s. EJ’s, Rocco’s and of course The Venice. I also went to Naples quite a bit when they were uptown on 43rd and Broadway. There was also the Pizza Caravan that used to stop at the Speedway Tavern after Zacko stopped making Pizza himself. The Starting Point is great especially the Calamari and Shrimp with hot sauce and when my good buddy Johnny Viola at the bar. I also remember fondly Cavanagh’s by the Sea and the great times there with Jake, Coach Leary and the crew.
I am sorry not to mention Kuhl’s Tavern who has a great Bar Pie and my two good friends Kevin and Glenn!
Went back to Bayonne today for the first time in many year. Was only in town for a funeral and was looking foward to a bar pie afterward. Unfortunately, starting point didn’t start serving until 3 and the Victorian not until 12:30. Sure wish I had time to wait.
Pompei on Broadway is still pretty good.