Ted Nugent has been opening restaurants throughout Brooklyn for two decades. This fall he opened his latest — but this time in Staten Island.
Nugent (son to the “Wango Tango” singer himself) co-owns The Richmond, one of the newest spots in Stapleton, a neighborhood on the island’s North Shore that is experiencing a sort of culinary renaissance. He went for an American-style bistro vibe “because Staten Island has four trillion Italian restaurants,” offering dishes like yellow fin tuna tartare over spiced guacamole ($19) and beef short rib mac and cheese with black truffles ($16).
The Richmond is one of several restaurants to open recently in the waterfront neighborhood, reachable by a short train ride from the ferry.
“There’s a food vibe coming back here, which is cool, like a rebirth. I feel like Christopher Columbus,” said Vic Rallo, who has two Stapleton restaurants — the year-old Surf and Barca, which he opened with Dave Pasternack this month, the executive chef and owner of Esca in midtown. “No one came here because there was nothing. Now this shore is becoming a destination.”
Barca features a Mediterranean seafood-based menu, with crudo like fluke with sea beans and radishes ($17) and mains like branzino alla plancha ($34), while Surf offers wood-fired cooking.
Both of Rallo’s restaurants are part of the Urby, a residential development that features several other food options ranging from pizza to tacos. David Barry, president and CEO of Urby, said sourcing quality dining was a priority for the complex.
“Previously it was a very industrial site. One of the goals as we developed it into a community . . . was to give it a sense of neighborhood,” he said. “With Stapleton, it was a much more provincial food scene five years ago. I think there were some notable long-standing ethnic restaurants, [but] as we opened Urby . . . I think it started to bring more notoriety for the North Shore.
“What we’re trying to create there . . . is a little bit of a restaurant destination in that part of Staten Island,” he added.
Nicholas Siclari, the chair of Staten Island’s Community Board 1, which includes Stapleton, joked that the neighborhood was “getting to be like a little mini Williamsburg” and that the options have exploded.
“If I wanted Greek or I wanted Spanish, I would have to go . . . to Bay Ridge. I think we’re at the precipice where I’ll no longer have to do that,” Siclari said. “I don’t have to leave the island, I don’t have to go over the Verrazzano Bridge.”
Joe Iovino, who co-owns Seppe Pizza Bar, which opened in November at the Urby, said there had been a “small pocket of restaurants” for years, but that the recent development of restaurants was exciting. Diners at the gourmet pizzeria can taste inventive pies like the Aunt Honey with soppressata, chili flakes and hot honey ($17) or the Artie, a white pizza with grilled artichokes, mozzarella and truffle oil ($20).
“The more options, the better for the community, the island and even the surrounding boroughs,” Iovino said. “As quickly as it’s happening, I guess it’s a welcome surprise. This is kind of an area in New York where there hasn’t been much attention on or much development.
“All along the waterfront, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful setting that’s been ignored for a number of years,” he added.
For Nugent of The Richmond, it was that untouched aspect of the neighborhood that was appealing.
“The rent seems to be affordable, there’s not as much competition as Brooklyn, there’s a bigger need for it than Brooklyn. All the good stuff, like I was opening my first place,” said Nugent, who has opened more than a dozen restaurants in the last 20 years. “I don’t think Staten Island was not going out to eat . . . but I think they were kind of repetitive. There was fried calamari for everyone. . . . We’re just doing our twist to it.”