The Staaten’s lunch returns | Pamela’s Food Service Diary –

Sauerbraten and applesauce with red cabbage, broccoli and a potato pancake at The Staaten. (Staten island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The volume of festivals, concerts and weekend activities might be a bellwether that things almost have returned to pre-COVID life. And then there is this other matter — The Staaten of West Brighton has brought back its weekday lunch.
Now we’re talking normalcy.
From left to right: Mike Griffin of the GB's, Mike Byrne, Chris Monte and Isabell Byrne (Staten island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)
My first lunch back at The Lounge — that is THE Lounge, to us North Shore types — was Tuesday, a day marked by a sauerbraten special, stunning fish and chips and beef barley soup. Like the good old days before the pandemic, busses parked nose-out in the lot. And that indicates more signs of life on the Forest Avenue strip as folks from Queens, Jersey, Long Island and beyond come to sing and dance to Mike Byrnes All Star Productions. In July, a Stars and Stripes regalia and New Year’s Eve party should be on the bucket list of every Staten Islander who can still dance the foxtrot.
On that afternoon, the crowd celebrated Oktoberfest starting with the National Anthem sung with gusto.
Fish 'n' chips (Staten island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)
Indeed, mirth was in the air on this fine day at The Staaten. I’m a long way from retirement at 50 but after some quality time with fellow patrons at The Lounge, those Golden Years seem even more golden. Shuffleboard and ping pong to pass the time after hanging up those work clothes? Not for this crowd and not for me. Just give us a regular dose of Tony Brown there in the corner and a good chat about bus trips to Pennsylvania theater with Deacon Joseph Rentkowski. And bring on the delicious food and clockwork specials.
Yes, as sure as the sun shines its face on the corner of Bement and Forest, The Staaten specials sing of roast pork loin on Tuesdays and turkey on Wednesdays. Fridays are fish-heavy with a rotation of clam chowders giving equal opportunity for lovers of Manhattan and New England versions alike. There are fluffy mashed potatoes sides plus chocolate and rice pudding desserts for people of all ages.
The lamb of Staaten has been taken away from the Thursday menu world due to price increases. Server Kaitlynn Murante says the Whiskey Sours of Wednesdays and cocktails of the day are not regular features at the moment. We are sad — but hopeful of their return.
Kaitlynn Murante chats with a guest. (Staten island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)
Otherwise all is wonderful in this chapter of the power lunch life at The Staaten.
New Springville residents Dotty and Anthony Bellantoni awaited their bowling crew from Rab’s Country Lanes. Before saying cheers with their monthly Bloody Mary — long live this formidable Tuesday drink of the day! — Dotty said, “We love the Staaten. Food is good. Good parking. And they sure are always looking to please you. It’s more like a friendship.”
She added, “We had a wedding here upstairs last week and the food was magnificent — over the top this time.”
“The filet mignon was like butter. It really was,” added Anthony.
Kaitlynn Murante reciprocated the sentiment for her patrons and said, “We are very happy to see our regulars. We’re family here. Not just co-workers.”
She nodded to colleagues Collen Valcarcel and Casey Finley who shuttled trays of food around the room.
“Casey and me — we were at Schaffers together. Colleen and I have been together for eight years,” said Kaitlynn.
The Staaten’s was just called The Staaten from 1956 until 1971, then owned by Mike Billotto. Then Jack and Nick LiGreci dubbed it “LiGreci’s Staaten” when they bought it from him in 1971. Little LiGreci’s was a place in the 1960s they owned across the street, which became Kent’s East in the mid-’70s. Then, Jack and Nick bought out Roy Belvin to partner with Jumbo Smith around 1980. There’s a lot of history in that corner of town.
Aside from being an institution in West Brighton, it’s just a happy place and a lot of that radiates from the top — speaking from experience there. When I started in the restaurant business with American Grill down the block, we had run out of lobsters — of all nights — on New Year’s Eve. I called The Staaten that night around 6:30 p.m. on a whim and Jack LiGreci himself answered the phone. Not only did he fetch a case of tails from his inventory but he had a staff member bring it to our restaurant. When I tried to return the favor he said, “Sweetheart, don’t worry about it. I would do that for anyone.”
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].
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