This is the latest edition of Who Goes There? a regular feature in which Lost City's Brooks of Sheffield cracks the doors on mysteriously enduring Gotham restaurants—unsung, curious neighborhood mainstays with the dusty, forgotten, determined look—to learn secrets of longevity and find out, who goes there.[Bess Adler]
The unending debate about who makes New York's best pizza rarely ranges beyond the usual suspects in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Yet lowly, ever-disrespected Staten Island has more than a few seasoned veterans in the game. Denino's is the best known. But Joe & Pat's Pizzeria on Victory Boulevard is hardly a neophyte. Giuseppe and Pasquale Pappadardo, from Naples, opened the restaurant in 1960. The only trace of the old building is the neon sign, for the old place burned down in 1999. It was a rebuilt in an anonymous fashion, with Greek diner-like tables protected by a long barrel ceiling painted with a cloudy blue sky and a mannered sunrise and crescent moon. Call the style Pizzeria Tiepolo.
Better to sit at one of the small tables in the less glamorous front room, opposite the enormous pizza ovens and near the rear table where the waitstaff and Joe Pappadardo hang out when not working. Pappadardo himself—sporting an alarming, but endearing, toupee as thick as shag rug—helped push together two small tables together when my wife asked if it could be done. "The wife's always boss," Joe said with a smile. Joe's brother Pat left the business in 1974 to start a real estate company that still stands across the street. A picture of the two young men back in 1960 hangs on the wall. The resemblance is hard to catch. There are also a lot of framed reviews and articles on the walls, but one doesn't get the impression that the restaurant's reputation has gone to Joe's head. It's still very much a workaday pizzeria.
Joe & Pat's pie is known for its crust's delicate thinness and the sauce's sweetness. As with the pizzas made in Naples, a grown man would have no trouble eating a whole pie. There's a menu full of other dishes, of which my wife was perfectly happy with an angel hair pasta with broccoli, eggplants, garlic and oil. The cashier told me that people come from all over to eat at Joe & Pat's, but that the clientele is mainly Staten Islanders. And, yes, pizza people on the Island have their fierce allegiances. Joe & Pat's devotees stick to Joe & Pat's.
When I profiled a rival pizza joint, Lee's Tavern, on this site a month back, a reader commented "I guess this place is technically within New York City [but] probably 90% of the viewers of this site are more likely to get pizza in Moscow or in Tokyo in their lifetimes than in Staten Island." Perhaps true. But I'm going to continue to visit Staten Island in the future, just as I will pay calls on The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The outer boroughs have done the better job these last ten years in preserving their mercantile masterpieces. While the avenues of Manhattan increasingly drown in an ocean of Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks and Applebee's, the sprawling lands beyond the bridges still have places that make you ask, "Who Goes There?"
—Brooks of Sheffield