Thanks to a large influx of Italian immigrants moving from Brooklyn after the Verrazzano Bridge opened in 1964 (and a few mob-inspired TV shows and movies), Staten Island cuisine has long been synonymous with Italian-American specialties. And while of course that’s still prominent — it holds some of New York City’s top-rated pizza places, after all — diversifying populations and business owners hoping to honor the island’s historical European roots have helped forge an enviably eclectic food scene. Those classic mom-and-pop (or should we say, mamma-and-papà) spots, restaurants in NYC’s own Little Sri Lanka, and Mediterranean and Caribbean newcomers are all along the stand-out eating and drinking options in New York’s other island borough.Read More
Where to Eat on Staten Island, a Low-Key Culinary Paradise
Sri Lankan, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and of course, good old fashioned Italian-American pizza can be found on Staten Island
Royal Crown Bakery
Home-cooking joint Royal Crown is located off the busy main thoroughfare of Staten Island: Hylan Boulevard. Split into two sides, the bakery covers traditional Italian pastries and made-to-order cakes, while the cucina has loads of sandwich options, pizzas, breads and more. There isn’t much seating indoors, but during warm weather they add café tables with umbrellas on their front sidewalk. The heroes, served on bread that is baked fresh on premises daily, are the highlight — especially the classic Italian with prosciutto, sweet or spicy soppressata, provolone, roasted peppers and black olives. Pair it with a side of high-quality imported glaze, available at the register for an additional 75 cents, that can be lathered on pre-first bite.
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Pio Hot Bagels
The contest for the best bagel in New York City is long and contentious, but Pio Hot Bagels, hidden in an unassuming shopping plaza on the South Shore of Staten Island, is a worthy candidate. The shop, which has been a bagel store for around 20 years but has changed hands multiple times, marries that slightly crusty outside with a spongy soft and doughy interior in its bagels, ideal for soaking up butter. A ham, egg and cheese sandwich on an egg everything — with salt, pepper and ketchup, of course — is equally divine.
The history of the Killmeyers building off Arthur Kill Road is quite rich, and some even claim it dates back to the 1700s. What they do know is that a Prussian immigrant named Nicholas Killmeyer from southwestern Germany bought the property from Balthazar Kreischer, a Bavarian businessman, in 1959. Over the years it evolved from a barbershop-saloon to a hotel to a restaurant to a tavern, trading hands from many different owners. In 1995, the current proprietor Ken Tirado restored it to its former glory and brought the kitchen back its original German menu. Today, enjoy wienerschnitzel (thin, fried veal cutlet), a German wurst sampler with six different sausages fresh from the butcher, and crispy potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. The original 1890 mahogany bar is still intact, with 16 beers on tap and over 100 bottles from all over the globe. In the summer, the restaurant has an outdoor patio biergarten with an additional 12 beers on tap.
Expect to be treated like family by New Asha owner Vijayakumari Devadas, who opened her no-frills Sri Lankan kitchen in the Tompkinsville neighborhood in 2000. Staten Island’s “Little Sri Lanka” has grown exponentially over the years, and New Asha on Victory Blvd (about an 25-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) was one of the first on the scene. The kottu roti (chicken, vegetables, egg and spices) and sambol (coconut, dried fish, red onion, lime and spices) are much-loved.
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Ralph’s Italian Ices & Ice Cream
The now-famous Ralph’s Italian Ices has more than 80 stores all over the tri-state area, but it started on Staten Island in 1928. Ralph Silvestro immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was a young man, and started selling his ices — based on the Sicilian granitas — out of a truck. His first retail shop opened in 1949 on Port Richmond Avenue, and the very same space is still running today. Lemon and orange are the original flavors, whose recipes have been unchanged for over 90 years. Most of the shops are only open summer through fall and are closed the remaining months throughout the year.
Denino’s is Staten Island royalty, but it’s the first name on islanders’ lips when it comes to pizza for a reason. It originally opened as a tavern in 1937 and didn’t even introduce the dish it’s now known for until 1951, when the son of the original owner, Carlo Denino, added it to the menu to accompany beer. It has been in the same location in Port Richmond ever since. The pizza is thin-crust style, with handmade mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce recipes passed down through the Italian family. The garlicky white clam pie is the star of the show, but the M.O.R. (Meatball, Fresh Onions & Ricotta) is a close second. Denino’s has recently added a Greenwich Village location, where they’ve been able to successfully echo the original’s flavors.
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Angelina’s Ristorante offers a more upscale take on Staten Island pizza, along with waterfront views of the Outerbridge Crossing. Opened by mother-and-son duo Angelina and Vincent Malerba, the fine-dining Italian restaurant offers brick oven pizzas, pastas like fresh rigatoni with traditional Bolognese sauce, as well as meat dishes like over-roasted pork shank. The fried zucchini flower special in the summer is a must-order. It was also featured as a meeting spot in many of the since-canceled Staten Island-based reality shows, like Mob Wives and Staten Island Hustle.
The smell of fresh bread, meat hanging from the ceiling, and stacked 90-oz cans of imported San Marzano tomatoes signify a Staten Island “pork store,” which originally made their way across the bridge from Brooklyn to provide Italian hand-cased sausages and fresh cuts of meat. Montalbano’s has been family owned and operated since it opened in 1926 and offers everything from cured sausages to chicken cutlets to fresh mozzarella made daily. The pork lard bread and olive bread are must-tries. There are two locations now, the original on Bay St. and one off Rossville Ave.
At Albanian joint Alba, the classic kebab platter is $7 for five pieces of Ćevapi (Eastern European minced meat sausages) served with the traditional Ajvar (roasted red pepper sauce), along with a large helping of rice, salad with feta, and bread on the side. It can easily be shared between two people. A bottle of Turkish mineral water Uludağ will help balance the filling meat-centered dishes, as will a post-meal espresso. There’s also an Eastern European grocery mart next store.
Marina Cafe has been serving Staten Island harbor side for over 35 years. With glistening chandeliers and full glass windows offering an unobstructed view of the Great Kills Harbor, it offers a more formal dining experience. Ocean fare like oysters on the half shell and seafood risotto are the primary draw, while an Italian influence is seen in appetizers like arancini (rice balls), homemade mozzarella, and chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and ricotta. During the summer, the outside dock turns into a tiki bar that could be plucked right from an oceanside beach town. Flavored sangrias, fried calamari, and up-close views of the boats rolling into harbor draw large crowds.
The Flagship Brewing Company
While others balk at the nickname, Flagship Brewery has embraced Staten Island’s “Forgotten Borough” label with their clever “unforgettable beer” tagline. Founded in 2014 by beer industry veterans Matt McGinley and Jay Sykes — who were born and raised in the nearby West Brighton neighborhood — Flagship Brewery is inspired by the island’s rich history in brewing that faded over the years. With eight varieties of beer on tap at a time, the wide open space and large picnic table seating make it ideal for a big group. It’s also particularly kid-friendly.
Another old-school Staten Island tavern, Lee’s is known for its thin-crust bar pizza. It was originally founded in 1940 and has been owned by the Palemine family since 1960. The fried calamari is another draw — which the family even serves on top of one of their pizzas. Paired with an ice cold beer and the game on, it’s an ideal local watering hole. That said, time moves a bit slower at Lee’s, so don’t expect on-their-toes waiters or especially speedy service. Since it is well-known for its pizza, it can attract larger crowds of tourists.
Lobster House Joe's
Staten Island is an island, after all, so seafood-centered menus shouldn’t be missed. And some of the freshest is served at Lobster House Joe’s, which now has two locations. The Joe’s Special is a favorite, offering a mix of everything with clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp in a white wine garlic sauce for $23.95. The restaurant also has a weekly $1 oyster special on Thursdays, and a $19.99 lobster lunch deal.
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Egger's Ice Cream Parlor
There aren’t too many true old-fashioned ice cream parlors left in New York City, but Egger’s has been holding on. Though located in a shopping center, it evokes just as much charm (and vintage goods) as a good ol’ soda shop from the ’50s. Patrons can sit at the mint green counter and order a sundae with creamy hand-churned ice cream served in a old-fashioned tin ice cream dish, with flavors changing seasonally. The hot fudge is homemade too, and dollops of whipped cream are spun fresh in a mixer throughout the day. There’s also plenty of old-school candy in glass jars. The shop was originally started by Mr. Richie Egger in 1932, though it moved to its present location in 1964, and it is currently owned by veteran employee Danielle Raleigh.
Koten's Carribean and American Restaurant
Koten’s brings a taste of the Caribbean to Staten Island with a menu ranging from mouth-watering oxtails with rice and peas, curry chicken with roti, and jerk chicken gyros. It draws a crowd during happy hour from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, when island rum punches are only $7 and jerk wing orders are $3. For weekend explorers, note that it is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
This 30-year-old Irish bar on the island is known for its killer half-pound burger, served between English muffins. Juicy, well-seasoned, and layered with sharp cheddar, it pairs well with a pint. Though it’s on the small side, Duffy’s has the usual old-school pub elements of a U-shaped wooden bar, paper placemats and a collection of mismatched beer glasses, but it is quaint and cozy.
Business partners Alan Aldakhla and Russell Romhen, who are originally from Damascus, Syria, brought a taste of Sryian and Lebanese cuisine to Staten Island in 2017. With iron chandeliers and exposed brick walls, Marmar offers a nice sit-down dining option for some of the island’s top falafel, hummus, grape leaves, and red snapper. Belly dancers visit on Saturday nights and hookah is available in the restaurant’s large heated outdoor patio space all year.
Lakruwana actually opened in Manhattan in 1995, but it moved to Staten Island in 2004 to the Stapleton Heights neighborhood, where it has been ever since. It’s especially popular on Saturdays and Sundays, when patrons take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet for $14.95. Full of Sri Lankan staples like kale mallung with coconut, onion sambol and black pork curry, it offers a wide variety of tasting options. The weekend buffet is cash-only and is available from 12 to 10 p.m. Call for reservations.
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Ocean Sushi opened in 2014 in the more suburban Annadale area on the South Shore of Staten Island. A bright, light-up bar and other colored lighting features fill the space, and fish is delivered fresh daily, with each piece personally inspected by the owner. From chef special sushi rolls like the Black Moon with spicy salmon, jalapeno, avocado, black pepper tuna and special sauce for $13.95 to a 12-piece sashimi for $15.95, regulars compare it to Manhattan-caliber sushi restaurants, much closer to home.