Salvatore of Soho
1880 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island NY (Grant City; at Slater Blvd.; map); 718-979-7499; salvatoreofsoho.com
Pizza Style: New York–Neapolitan/coal-oven
Oven Type: Gas-coal hyrid oven
The Skinny: Longtime pizzaman Salvatore Ganci is turning great, thin, chewy-crisp pizzas that stand shoulder to shoulder with the best coal-oven places in the city
Price: Small Margherita, $9; large, $18
Just a couple blocks down from Pasticceria Bruno of Greenwich Village you'll find Salvatore of Soho. Geographically impossible, you say? Then you haven't been to Grant City, on the eastern shore of Staten Island, where this pizzeria has been cranking out coal-oven pies since late last year. That's Salvatore of Soho, mind you, not Salvatore's of Soho, located in The Bronx.
Oh, so now you're saying a coal-oven pizzeria on Staten Island is impossible? Well, you might be half right. Salvatore's of Soho uses a unique coal-gas hybrid oven with a rotating stone disk that turns out some great pizzas. A small, glowing coal chamber assists in heating the spinning surface above it and also imparts that smoky coal-oven flavor you've come to know and love at the legendary coalers in Coney Island (Totonno's), East Harlem (Patsy's), and, yes, Soho (Lomardi's).
In fact, co-owner Salvatore Ganci, a lifelong pizza man, did time at Lombardi's, helping reopen the current location in 1994. What he learned there on Spring Street has served him well on Hylan Boulevard. Where Lombardi's pies can often be a bit too thick and chewy, Salvatore's pizzas are perfectly thin and chewy-crisp, with a respectable amount of oven spring and moderate hole structure. At times, however, the crust can exhibit a bit too much char. (Did you ever think you'd see me write those words?)
And that's all before you get to the sauce (vibrant, fresh, and tomatoey though applied a bit too sparingly) and cheese (creamy, house-made fresh mozzarella). On a Margherita pie, there's a nice balance of flavors—saucy sweetness mixed with the saltiness of pecorino Romano and a little bit of nuttiness from some additional Parmigianno-Regiano. And during growing season, Salvatore's uses fresh organic herbs—basil and the like—grown on a farm in Hudson County owned by Ganci's business partner, Ralph.
On two separate visits, we tried a Margherita (sauce, cheese, basil); a white pie (mozzarella and ricotta, no sauce); and a half-plain, half sausage-and-onion pie. Of these, my favorite was the sausage and onion, which we tried two ways—sauce on top of cheese and sauce below the cheese. (I preferred the cheese-on-top version.) The sausage is Italian fennel sausage applied in a loose crumble rather than in sliced rounds.
There are a number of nonpizza dishes on the menu that are quite good as well. We sampled a fried calamari appetizer; cheese ravioli; and penne with grilled chicken, garlic, and sautéed spinach. Each item was clearly more than an afterthought or a sop to non-pizza-eaters, and there were a number of people in the dining room (still packed with locals around 2:30 p.m.) eating various pasta dishes, including a couple orders of mussels marinara. For dessert, we had a quartet of gelati (coconut, fig, rasperry, and hazelnut with a bit of cookie mixed in; the fig was an unexpected runaway favorite).
Back to that packed dining room—there's a reason why people crowd the place at lunch and, reportedly, at dinner. Ganci and Ralph have put in a lot of effort to make the place feel welcoming and friendly—gleaming white subway tiles line the oven area, waitresses wear uniforms that invite '50s-era nostalgia, and many fixtures and decorations are antiques salvaged from around Staten Island.