If you grew up in and around the New Dorp neighborhood of Staten Island, Gennaro’s pizzeria was most likely a staple in your life.
Formerly Pizza Town, a place that literally looked like a carnival attraction, it was transformed into Gennaro’s with a more traditionally designed building in the 1980s.
The new name and edifice spawned a very reliable commercial pizza joint with delicious Italian dishes that were very affordable in comparison to some of the more upscale restaurants in the area.
Half of Gennaro’s renovated building was a classic NYC pizzeria with the other half being turned into a sit down restaurant. And while the restaurant was really good and largely slept on, Gennaro’s is mostly missed for its pizza and zeppole.
The place served up a quintessential New York slice with a slightly sweet sauce and salty cheese. The crust always had a buttery finish and on most occasions was cooked to perfection.
Gennaro’s also had a fluffy cheese-topped Sicilian slice which I frequently rotated in and out of my eating pattern.
You could also order just about any type of hero or dish over the counter in the pizza section of Gennaro’s. To this day, I still think the pizzeria made one of the best eggplant parmesan’s I’ve ever eaten.
They sliced the eggplant super thin and used just enough breading to not over power it. The sandwich was then finished with some marinara sauce, a slice of mozzarella cheese and a warm toasted hero.
I ate the eggplant parmesan once every few months and have not been able to find a better one in any of the boroughs since. It’s safe to say I went through some withdrawals after the place closed.
What also made Gennaro’s special was the fact that they always offered fresh sugar coated zeppole. Most pizzerias on Staten Island would sell them during certain seasons, but you knew you could always head to Gennaro’s if you had a hankering for something sweet and doughy.
One thing I always appreciated about Gennaro’s is that they never tried any gimmicks and honestly never needed to. No brick or coal ovens were every brought in and no fancy gourmet pies were ever served there. Just a basic New York slice was what you got and it tasted great every time.
The restaurant portion of Gennaro’s served up Italian classics like Chicken Parm, Veal Marsala and Broiled Filet. They also had a diverse list of pasta dishes and experimented with different flavors.
Their Linguini di Mare included a good amount of shellfish and only cost $15.00. This dish could be as much as $30 in other places. The fish was always fresh and the sauce was slightly sweet with a little pinch of heat.
The Ravioli Ala Carbonella was also an interesting pasta choice boasting a sweet pink cream sauce, fresh basil, shrimp, ham and peas. If you like penna vodka, or just cream sauces in general, you would have loved this dish.
Another thing you say about Gennaro’s is that it was always packed, especially during lent. It was a thriving business for over 30 years in Staten Island, but unfortunately in May of 2018 they decided to close their doors when longtime owner Jerry Chiarello retired.
It was probably the closest thing Staten Island ever had to an L&B Spumoni Gardens and letting it go was quite painful. The place was a staple in the neighborhood and a pizzeria you could always rely on for a quick, consistent slice.