Staten Island Pizza Tour Part 2

Way back in May 2014, I returned from the Miss New York Pageant in Staten Island with tales of fantastic pizza to tell. I promised to further tell the tale upon subsequent trips, but via a combination of forces, this past weekend was that next visit.

Of course, we were back for pageant time again, and of course, I want you to hear about our fabulous Miss TI before I tell you about the food.

Miss Thousand Islands 2016 Kristina Blackstock is a stunner. A graduate of SUNY Potadam soon to attend nursing school, she is an accomplished singer, fantastic baker, sometime runner, and she might possibly love accessories as much as I do. Out of 30 contestants at Miss New York, she finished third runner-up, a nearly impossible feat for a first timer. It would be tough to be any prouder of this girl than I already am.

Photo: Joe Whiteko

On Sunday, before we packed it on in to the gorgeous St. George Theater to watch Kristina compete against 30 other young women who haven't eaten carbs in six months in the swimwear competition, we hit up Lee's Tavern for lunch. It really is sweet to be on the volunteer side of pageants. When I wrote my first SI pizza profile two years ago, native Staten Islander and Miss NY 2015 Jamie Lynn Macchia told me I had it all wrong, that Lee's had the best pizza on the island. And so, as Jamie was giving up her crown Sunday, we felt it was apt to follow her recommendation.

Miss New York knows her 'za 

We followed GPS to Lee's Tavern, because it's on a little, hidden side street somewhere between the Island's boardwalk and fancy Dongan Hills neighborhood. There's no sign outside, so we drove by once and had to loop around before Mom spotted the pizza boxes in the windows, stacked floor to ceiling. You know a joint is legit when it doesn't even have a sign, but is still cranking with business at 12:30 on a Sunday.

There were lots of tempting items on the bar's simple menu, most tantalizing, a roasted pork sub that I will absolutely be back for in the future. The tavern was dark and cool, with TVs displaying a variety of sports, a softball team of beefy guys drinking beers and swapping stories at the bar, and a brisk take-out business keeping the barkeep busy. We told him we had been sent by Jamie, and received excellent service. We also noted that he kept each take-out customer updated on the status of their order to help them manage their time, all while keeping the dudes at the bar well lubricated. With beer, not, like, with anything gross.

But most importantly, we received personal, thin cut, blistered pizzas.

The crust was just on the chewy side of cracker-thin, topped with a sweetly bright, raw tomato sauce weighed down with neither too much garlic nor any tomato paste. I chose a sausage and mushroom pie, and enjoyed the mild Italian sausage's richness with the fresh mushrooms' woodsy earthiness. The blistering and light charring around the circumference of the pie indicated a screaming hot oven and lent each bite crunchy texture and a smoky, savory flavor. 

The crust was thick enough to have a little chew as you progressed inward towards the center, but thin enough to absorb some of the flavors of the tomato sauce and cheese. This was an utterly delicious pie, all the flavors in balance, everything perked up even more with a scant sprinkle of hot pepper flakes.

My teen, Brianna, ordered pepperoni on her personal pie, and I stole a piece, noting that rather than flimsy pre-cut slices from a package, the spiced sausage had been hand cut, so that each small disc curled a bit and became a tiny cup for a little fat and flavor. Yum. These guys are doing it right.

Lee's Tavern certainly deserves its spot in the pantheon of terrific Staten Island pizza places - if on locals-only, signless street cred alone. But with a classic but spotless interior, friendly service, and spot-on pizza, it's more than just cool. Lee's Tavern may just be the best pizza on the island. Stay tuned to future tour installments to find out! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

Lee's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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