Month: July, 2007

Stone and metal

Sunday, July 8th, 2007 | All Things

On historic Stone Street with its 1830s Greek Revival buildings, rebuilt after The Great Fire of 1835.

Stone Street

And just down the block, tucked beneath the scaffolding enveloping Delmonico’s Steak House: another random sighting from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

R2D2 mailbox

An iced coffee would have been divine right about now… if only the financial district Starbucks would get with the program.  (We tried.)

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Impromptu Staten Pie-land

Sunday, July 8th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

Governors Island was hosting its first ever Figment festival, a “one day celebration of art and creative culture.” The free, volunteer-driven event was envisioned as a scaled-down, East Coast Burning Man, with attendee participation highly encouraged in the form of costumes, games, music and dance performances.

Knowing how these things can play out, we would have set out for the ferries much earlier in the day, but I was determined not to miss another clinic session after last week’s medical emergency. By the time we arrived downtown at the Battery Maritime Building, the line for the ferries was literally thousands long – thanks in likely part to the beautiful weather and The New York Times piece from two days earlier, promoting the festival.

Governors Island ferry line

After wiling away about half an hour – during which we made a couple of new hoop friends – we did a quick calculation and concluded that it would be logistically impossible to get through the line, onto Governors Island and back to Manhattan on the last ferry at 5:00PM.

We had no choice but to abandon this mission. Prudent call, as we learned the following day; thousands were turned away when capacity was reached.

Since we were determined to make it onto the water that afternoon, we made the executive decision to sail into Staten Island instead. But what to do there? I recalled a conversation with CF in which she mentioned her husband’s favorite family-run pizzeria from childhood. After some key Google searches (via HYB — thanks!), we had it: Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern on Port Richmond Avenue.

I hadn’t been on the orange ferries since last summer and on the Staten Island buses, well… ever, so this was quite an adventure.

We found the nondescript brick-faced restaurant off the S44 route with little difficulty, strolled into the dining room and were seated almost immediately by the cheery hostess. After the DiFara’s ordeal, such ease was extraordinarily refreshing. The second pleasant surprise came with the menu prices: $13.50 for the sausage and mushroom special pie? $3.50 for a half pitcher of soda – a half pitcher of domestic draught for just a quarter more?

Deninos Pizzeria

And what of the pizza itself? Standard sauce, gooey cheese… the sausage was generous without being overwhelming, the mushrooms not too weighed down by water. I love mushrooms on pizza, but so often they compromise the integrity of the crust. Not here: Denino’s was hefty, yet crispy – the result of seven decades’ experience honing the temperature at which to bake the dough. The pizzeria’s rightful claim to fame is emblazoned on their takeout boxes: “In Crust We Trust.Time Out New York named their pie the second best in the city in 2006 (behind you-know-who.)

Bruni likes it too.

Deninos Special

For dessert we did as the locals do: crossed the street to Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices, which has been serving Staten Islanders since 1928. Under the bright blue and white striped canopies, a trio of teenage girls efficiently doled out frozen concoctions in scores of flavors: water- and creme-based ices, nonfat frozen yogurts, hard and soft ice creams, smoothies and the occasional “Ralphaccino.”

Ralphs Famous Italian Ices

Ralphs Famous Italian Ices

Lemon and peach water ices — flecked with real fruit. Another bargain at $2.00 apiece:

Ralphs Water Ices

Baseball and pizza, anyone?

St. George Terminal

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Escape from Bellevue

Saturday, July 7th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

At the Village Theater on Bleecker for “Escape from Bellevue,” an autobiographical “rock ‘n’ roll odyssey” written and performed by Christopher John Campion, front man of the New York-based indie rock band Knockout Drops.

Campion was the star of the evening: the trajectory of his tale is familiar to anyone who has ever watched an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music“: from rise to fall to redemption. With admirable charisma, he wove together highly personal stories of the band’s origins in Long Island, his series of failed romances, his Manhattan rock star lifestyle, and the increasingly frequent drug and alcohol binges that ultimately threatened to destroy his life. In between vignettes, there were hard-rocking songs by the band – amplified at near-painful volumes – and a few prankish video and animation shorts.

Escape from Bellevue

Comedy is tragedy plus time: the show’s title refers to Campion’s three hospitalizations at the infamous Bellevue mental hospital — the second of which ended (crazily, allegedly) with his being the first man since 1963 to smooth-talk his way out of psych ward confinement. In his retelling, the episodes play out like a series of high-spirited highjinks before the inevitable sobering reckoning; one cannot help but sense how things could have taken a much more dire turn if not for the timely intervention of concerned friends and family.

On the strength of this show, Campion was signed to a book deal with Penguin’s Gotham Books. Look for Escape from Bellevue and Other Stories, coming to bookstores in 2009.

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