IN SEARCH OF: THE BEST PIZZA ON STATEN ISLAND (Part One)
3. Pier 76 Italian Restaurant (76 Bay St) / Grade: Undetermined
Price of a slice: Free
Part One: My initial grade for this slice is undetermined. I have to rate Pier 76’s slice the second time around because my first slice of their pizza was free, courtesy of the Life*Vest*Poetry open mic at the St. George Library. And free is a topping that makes any pizza taste better. So, I’ll reserve my final unbiased grade for a slice that I purchase.
As for the biased slice, it’s hard to generate an accurate assessment. For a room temperature slice, it wasn’t bad. I would’ve preferred a little more cheese. You can see in the photo how red my slice looks–like a state that went to Trump. The sauce has a distinct sweetness to it, which may or may not be a significant factor when the slice is fresh out the oven. I eat all judged slices, as is, but if that sweetness is as prevalent as I’m remembering, then some red pepper flakes would provide a nice balance.
And as was the case with the previous pizzeria I judged, the crust is similarly thin and nicely crisp with a hint of chewiness. I don’t know yet if that’s just a coincidence or a Staten Island thing. Either way, the crust is less doughy than slices I’ve typically gotten in other boroughs; you’re not left with that big edible-handle (which only gets eaten when you’re really hungry).
A final score based on a fresh slice that is paid for, so as not to be biased by the additional flavoring that “free” always adds.
2. Paulie’s Pizzeria (Bay St & Wave St, across from McDonald’s) / Grade: B+/A-
Price of a slice: $2
I started off with a B+ grade because I had no major complaints. It would have been nice to get acknowledged right away instead of standing at the counter for about 29 seconds, but…it was cold and snowing outside, so I was appreciative of finding warm shelter that provided a momentary respite.
Paulie’s is an authentic Italian pizzeria. There’s no fried chicken being sold here. Plaques with Italian writing are mounted on the wall, as well as a photo of an accolade from the past which reminds you that they were once ranked The Forgotten Borough’s best. The most noticeable thing though is that the pizza-making is different. No shredded mozzarella. The cheese is in the shape of little chunks.
The crust is thin and crispy. Nice. But what can make or break a slice of pizza to me is the sauce. The sauce here tastes of quality and freshness, but it’s also not memorable which prevents me from grading my slice an A or A+, however, I settled on an A- in the end because I did want to get another slice.
1. Family Pizzeria (340 Victory Blvd & Cebra Ave) / Grade: F
Price of a slice: $1.75
This review is based on the second time I ordered pizza here because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t imagining how disappointed I was the first time around. The quality, or lack thereof, of the regular pizza served here is exemplified by me holding my slice in the air vertically, by the crust, and not a drop of oil hitting the paper plate. This is the dream slice of people who dab their pizza with napkins. I’m not one of those people. The oil, the fat, is where the flavor is. Family Pizzeria’s regular slice has no flavor; its blandness is offensive. Some of their other standard pizzeria fare is more tolerable: pasta dinner, chicken parm hero, garlic knots, and school cafeteria-style beef patty. (A customer service brownie point for the young lady taking my order, who let me sprinkle red pepper flakes inside the patty before she added the mozzarella cheese and put it in the oven.)
It also doesn’t help that the Family Pizza oven seems to run lukewarm. Normally, to preserve the sanctity and integrity of your mouth’s roof, your first bite of right-out-the-oven pizza is an overly cautious nibble. Not in this case. I took a huge bite of my pizza as soon as it was handed to me. Roof of mouth completely unfazed. But I could overlook the temperature issue, if there was some flavor to savor–there isn’t.
It would take a major overhaul of Family Pizza’s sauce and possibly an adjustment to their cheese to get me to ever buy another slice there. In fact, without significant improvement, I wouldn’t even accept a free regular slice of My Family Pizza from a group of strangers sitting on the sidewalk.