Two Oafs By Sea: Slice's Adam K. and E-Rock made a trip out to Staten Island on Saturday to visit Joe & Pat's, one of the borough's better-known pizzerias. Joe & Pat's neon sign (top left). E-Rock sneaks a beer aboard the S62 (top right). Joe & Pat's amazingly thin plain pie (above). Joe & Pat's, on Victory Boulevard (right), is easy to get to by bus.
words and photos by adam k. .::. Taking advantage of what may well have been one of the last halfway decent weekends of the year, Slice roving reporter E-Rock and I took a ferry ride two Saturdays ago to Staten Island to visit Joe & Pat's, one of that borough's respected pizzerias.
Location: 1758 Victory Blvd., Staten Island
Getting there: If you're a Staten Islander, you already know how to get there, I'm sure. For everyone else, take the ferry to S.I. and then the bus. Go to the ferry terminal's Ramp A, and hop on the S61, S62, S91, or S92. Take it to the Manor Road stop. It's about a 20-minute trip; watch the building numbers as you ride.
The skinny: Skinny is right. This is some seriously thin crust. If it's crisp you like, you'll get it here. Sometimes veers toward "crunch." Perfect balance of crust, sauce, cheese.
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the best deals in the city: It's free. E-Rock and I remarked that we wished we had more reasons to make the trip. Despite the ongoing renovations threatening to slickify both the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan and the Saint George terminal on Shaolin, the boats themselves remain quaint reminders of a bygone New York. Wooden benches burnished from countless commuter asses (below left) and PT-boat-era lifejackets overhead only reinforce the feeling that you've boarded a floating time machine of sorts.
On this particular crossing, the fog (right) added to our sense of false nostalgia. Reminding us that we were indeed in the year 2004, however, was the armed Coast Guard escort cruising just off our stout ship's starboard side (above right). Perhaps that's why E-Rock needed a Foster's Lager (a relative bargain at $4).
By the time E-Rock quaffed his can o' beer, the boat had docked. We disembarked and made our way to the bus ramps, looking for the S61, S62, S91, or S92. Our veteran ferry-commuting readers probably know that these bus lines depart from Ramp A of the Saint George Terminal. E-Rock and I did not, and so we missed the first round of buses into the interior of the mist-shrouded isle. No worries. We killed time watching a gentleman of the street chase intruderscars, pigeons, busesfrom his little corner of the ramp.
After a ten-minute wait. the S62 appeared and we boarded it, relieved that, even though Staten Island seems so different from the rest of the city, its buses are still MTA buses and therefore take MetroCards. The ride itself is not too bad. It took about 20 minutes. Joe & Pat's is on Victory Boulevard, just off Manor Road. Even if you don't know Staten Island's streets, all you have to do is watch out the window as the building numbers increase. Joe & Pat's is at 1758 Victory Blvd.; it'll be on the left side of the bus as you meander out there. With its green-and-white striped awning (third photo from top), you can't miss it.
We debused just past Manor Road and backtracked a half block to the place. Walking in, we immediately spied a just-out-of-the-oven pie going into a take-out box. It was as thin as the devil is evil and exhibited signs of being properly balanced in terms of crust-sauce-cheese, as there were little islands of caramelized mozzarella floating among a splash of deep-red sauce.
Our waitress showed us to a booth in the middle section of the restaurant (right), which, though established in 1960, appears to have been recently renovated, what with its freshly painted and papered walls, blonde-wood accents, and trompe l'oeil blue-sky-and-clouds ceiling.
The menu offered many kinds of pizza and much more than pie, but we knew we had to get the benchmark plain pie. Shortly after we ordered it, the waitress came out with a stack of paper plates and one of those devices we wished every pizzeria would employ: the pizza-tray rack (left). The pizza itself was not too far behind; it arrived about five minutes later. The quick turnaround pleased us both, as we hadn't had anything to eat yet (well, except for that hot dog and Coke on the ferry).
For component balance, our plain pie matched the to-go one we had seen upon walking in. This augured well, we thought, because our one recurring complaint with too many pizzas in the city is that they're often overloaded with cheese. As you can see in the large photo at top, the cheese on Joe & Pat's plain pie was carefully applied, which left opportunity to actually taste the sauce. Not only that, but this distribution makes it easy for pizza tasters to take carefully tailored bites, sampling bits with just sauce or with sauce and cheese.
According to food writer Ed Levine, Joe & Pat's uses a sauce made with California-grown tomatoes that come from seeds of Italian San Marzano tomatoes. Though some swear by the Italian variety, we found Joe & Pat's sauce fresh-tasting, sweet, and sufficiently tomatoey.
As for the cheese, it was caramelized from what was either a very hot oven, more time than usual in said oven, or a little of both. The mozzarella on Joe & Pat's plain pie reminded us of the pies at Frank Pepe's and Sally's Apizza up in New Haven, Conn., cooked to the point where the oil had rendered from it and had sort of fried it. It was crunchy and creamy at the same time, which was interesting, but it burned the roof of my mouth (I was hungry and couldn't wait for it to cool down a bit).
But it was the crust that set Joe & Pat's apart. It was superthin, supercrisp, lightly charred and had an almost undefinable Staten Islandpizza quality to it, marked by a somewhat salty, yeasty flavor akin to the crust at Denino's, another Shaolin pizza mainstay. E-Rock liked the crispness and declared that it, and the overall taste and balance, put Joe & Pat's in his top-five list of New York pizzerias. I enjoyed the crispness from the tip to the part of the pie where the sauce ended but thought that the crust crept too close to the border of Crunchville; when folded, it simply broke instead of bending flexibly into a U shape. The endcrustthe arced part of the slice that is nothing but doughmade a full-on incursion into Crunchville, showing no sign of softness or chewiness whatsoever. I was almost tempted to leave it on the plate as many novice pizza eaters do.
Even with that complaint, I thought Joe & Pat's was worth the trip that day and could understand why E-Rock's coworker liked it so much, claiming she ate there at least once a week. Her praise was seconded by a Staten Island&3150;native freelance editor at my job; this gentleman lives near Joe & Pat's, eats there as often as he can and has an undying affection for it, too.
Had we stopped there, we would have been happy. But E-Rock, reasoning that we had come all that way, suggested we get another pie, this one with toppings. I knew my limit but didn't feel like I had reached it yet that afternoon. Boy, was I wrong. We ordered a small pie this time, half pepperoni, half garlic and onion. The one was one inch, maybe two, smaller than the large. E-Rock got through his half of it, but sadly, I had to leave one lone pepperoni-topped soldier on the battlefield. The Battle of the Bulging Stomach was over and done without his help. I don't feel I can fairly assess the pepperoni portion of the pie, as it was not even pleasurable eating it. I do know that folks who like well-done, crispy pepperoni would enjoy it. Like the cheese and crust, these rounds had been exposed to considerable heat. They were curled into little bowls of sausage, trapping the oil of the meat within. The lesser cooked ones were tasty, with a satisfying crunch at the edges and meatiness toward the bottoms. But those that were overcooked tasted almost like bacon, a flavor that was hardly appealing to me by the time I'd reached my seventh slice.
After lunch, we explored the area a bit and made our way to a bar called the Beer Garden, where we were too full to enjoy the brewskis. On the bus ride back, I noticed an indoor ice rink and made a mental note of it. While Joe & Pat's didn't blow me out of the water the way it did E-Rock (or the way the Coast Guard escort boat could blow sneaky evildoers to kingdom come), I could see myself going back in conjunction with a summer ice-skating trip.
Next time, however, I won't skate on the thin ice of overindulgence.