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by Jodi Lee
Staten Island Advance - Staten Island,
July 24, 2009
Staten Island writer Sandy Lo discusses and sign copies
of her new novel Sunday (July 26) at
Lacey's Bridge Tavern.
The tavern's book clubbers read Lo's "Lost in You,"
(Lulu.com, $16.98) in anticipation of the 6-9 p.m.
The story chronicles the love life of 25-year-old
Cooper Jackson. Normally closed off to relationships,
the young woman unexpectedly finds herself attracted to
a member of a boy band. Problem is, he's engaged. As a
distraction, Cooper throws herself at another band
Sandra Lo Grasso
in South Beach, the writer now resides in Elm Park. She
is the founder and editor of an online entertainment
magazine, StarShineMag.com, which has featured
interviews with Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift and the
Lacey's bibliophiles meet monthly in the bar at 75
Innis St., Elm Park. There are no club fees. On book
club nights, Lacey's serves a three-course meal (salad,
appetizer, entree) and unlimited soft drinks, coffee and
tea for $23, which includes tax and tip. There's a cash
bar for those who like booze with their book banter.
The informal crew has tackled everything from
literary classics such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a
Mockingbird" and bestsellers like Jodi Picoult "The
Pact" to Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama biographies.
Questions? Call book club moderator Sara Gaither at
718-702-3091 or e-mail
by Jodi Lee
Advance - Staten Island, NY
Books, booze &
banter: What a novel idea on the bar scene
The writers' strike is dragging into its
addicts, this void of fresh episodes is a
major buzzkill. Suffering from "24" or "The
Office" withdrawal? Join the club.
Or join a
month about three dozen Lacey's Bridge
denizens indulge in a different type of pop
culture pursuit: Reading with cocktails.
you drink, the more you want to talk," jokes
retired police sergeant Hank Edgar of
Graniteville, 60, who favors non-fiction and
Budweiser. "You become more fluid."
a little over a year ago, Lacey's Book Club
tackles everything from literary classics
such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"
and bestsellers like Jodi Picoult "The Pact"
to Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama
Manhattan's KGB... and Rocky Sullivan's...
in Brooklyn attract celeb novelists who read
while bookworms (tequila anyone?) drink up,
Lacey's lets the crowd do all the talking.
woman-in-charge, Sara Gaither, calls the
crew to order from atop a chair, sometimes
dropping a few jump-off questions. But
mostly, it's the lit lovers running the show
over wine, top-shelf shots and a $20
three-course meal. A recent menu: Salad,
pasta and pork chops, plus unlimited soda
and coffee. The booze is extra.
love this club because it's fun and informal
and also smart and interesting," says
Gaither, 32, of Richmond, who teaches
English at the College of Staten Island.
"It's really the book club for anyone who
thought they couldn't join a book club.
Great friends, great food, great
conversation. What else is there on a Sunday
often long-lost hobby of reading for fun is
especially attractive now as new television
becomes increasingly rare thanks to the
Writers Guild of America strikes, say
Lacey's book clubbers, who run the gamut
from 20- to 70-somethings.
30, and her mom, Julie, 59, use the club as
a mother-daughter bond strengthener.
"I call her
up and say, 'Oh, I can't believe this
happened,'" says Noel, a quality assurance
analyst for a financial services firm who
reads on the way to and from her Manhattan
office from Annadale. "That's my favorite
part -- and her trying not to tell me what
non-traditional bar patrons give Lacey's
props for fostering new perspectives on
topics such as suicide, the subject of
Picoult's "The Pact," the November pick.
Readers instinctually want feedback and
that's mostly not possible with authors.
Plus, the club turns them onto novels they
might never have picked up.
And in the
literary world, that means no re-runs --
AWE senior writer Jodi Lee Reifer at email@example.com.
Lacey's Book Club
Bibliophiles pack this Elm Park pub (75
Innis St.) once a month for informal
discussions about a book they choose at the
end of each meeting. Reading is encouraged,
but not required. The next meeting is Jan.
13 at 6 p.m. This month's pick: "The Road"
by Cormac McCarthy. No club fees. But the
group meets over a $20 three-course dinner
-- and cocktails. RSVPs necessary.
Questions? Call moderator
Sara Gaither at 718-702-3091 or e-mail
Advance - Staten Island, NY
map search may be necessary for that first
excursion to Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm
Park. But future visits will be easy once
you've discovered what may be a fine example
of a local American roadhouse. The building
is marked on either side with a sign that
says simply "Eat" and an arrow aimed
downward to the entrance.
and the place is easily recognizable. The
cozy, pine-paneled bar and booths do indeed
recall every roadhouse in vanishing rural
America. The woodsy backroom has dining
tables and knowledgeable, cheerful
waitresses in black outfits waiting to greet
diners. This is an honest, pleasant eating
and drinking establishment. We like it.
We opt for
the back room and peruse the lunch menu,
available all day, because we couldn't do
justice to the family-style meals as
advertised on the front window, in the menus
and on the Web site. If this roadhouse was
in, say, Wisconsin, we would be offered
large portions of bratwurst and fish fry.
But Staten Islanders crave their southern
Italian classics -- parmigiana, piccata,
marsala and marinara -- and they get them
here with plenty of pasta, if desired. If
you haven't been that friendly with your
dining companions before the tempting
platters arrive, you will be after sharing
the delightful food. There's quantity, of
course, but definite quality, too.
we shared a delightful spinach salad with
thick-sliced mushrooms, red onion hoops,
bacon bits and wedges of hard-cooked egg in
a tasty maple-sherry vinaigrette. It also
contained wedges of wan tomato which perhaps
could be eliminated in winter.
desired a cheeseburger which was
charcoal-flavored, cooked to medium as
requested and offered with good cheddar
cheese. It included rough-cut french fries,
a trifle salty but that didn't stop us from
demolishing the pile.
with red clam sauce, a good test of an
Italian kitchen, was spot-on with properly
cooked pasta and whole and chopped clams in
a rust, rather than red, colored sauce with
a suggestion of Worcestershire that offered
a greater depth of flavor than usually found
in this dish. The restaurant is also known
for its two-pound meatloaf and barbecued
dessert, the cheesecake is housemade but our
favorite was a carrot cake, not housemade,
which offered a moist base topped with tasty
cream cheese icing.
We have had
the Bridge Tavern's Sunday brunch on several
occasions and we recommend ordering from
among the egg dishes. There are several eggs
benedict plates, a frittata, Mexican omelet
and a create your own omelet. We have tried
the cream-cheese filled French toast and the
grilled vegetables and mozzarella over
tossed salad and they were indeed tasty, but
we believe the hen fruit will leave you in
the happiest mood.
our favorite drink with its robust flavor
and fresh fruit. Other classic brunch thirst
quenchers are available including mimosas
and Bloody Marys.
at brunch a lovely lady named Karen performs
vocally with guitar. With her wide
repertoire, she finds something to please
Brunch could be more pleasant with a bread
basket of good bagels or rolls and freshly
baked muffins. Each time we have been there,
the basket is less than half-filled with
little chocolate donuts, sugary donut holes
and small squares of crumb bun.
Tavern does a good catering business and is
quite involved in community affairs as its
Web site can attest. At each visit, dinner
or brunch, we have found a family gathering
of 25 or more people in the dining room.
Obviously, they are doing something right.
Maybe it's time for you to venture over
there to see for yourself.
Knisley is the temporary restaurant critic
for AWE. All comments or questions should be
directed to AWE@siadvance.com.
The Mother's Day brunch crunch
By Pamela Silvestri
Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY
May 11, 2007
taking mom to brunch this Sunday? Well, thousands of other
Staten Islanders had the same idea.
"We've been booked for the last three weeks," reported
Cynthia Diaz, the receptionist at Historic Old Bermuda Inn
in Charleston. Brochures for Mother's Day have been
distributed since Easter. The catering house will charge
$29.95 for adults and $16.95 for children for a spread that
includes Belgian waffles, carving stations and a dessert
table replete with a flowing chocolate fountain.
Rather than disappoint customers, Ms. Diaz recommended the
South Shore Country Club in Huguenot and the Hilton Garden
Inn in Bloomfield. At the moment, both locations also are
fully booked for brunch.
"Whoa, we have 508 for brunch," said Patty Salerno, banquet
manager at the South Shore Country Club.
"We've had two cancellations for the earlier seating but
we're holding the spots for any regulars," she said. The
South Shore plans on an extensive buffet to be served in the
facility's large ballroom.
Gene Lucarini of The Lake Club in Sunnyside stopped taking
names when he hit 200 reservation requests.
"I believe in a loose pack and I don't want to rush
anybody," he said, adding, "What I don't make on that day
I'll make up in the future. Those people will all come
back." He believes a lighter crowd -- the aforementioned
"loose pack" -- allows the restaurant to give better
Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park met with stunning success
for its first Mother's Day brunch. Right now, Chris Lacey,
proprietor and chef, expects more than 85 guests.
"We have space outside but are cutting off brunch at 1
p.m.," Lacey explained. He's giving guests a sit-down meal
with about a dozen options, including eggs Benedict,
frittatas and pasta. With mimosas, Bloody Marys and all
drinks as part of the deal, the meal costs between $15.95
and $18.95, excluding tax and tip.
Meanwhile fishmongers at the New Fulton Fish Market in Hunts
Point found business to be slower than usual for Thursday
morning before the big day.
"Tonight was pretty disappointing," said filetman Bobby
Tuna, otherwise known as Robert DiGregorio of Great Kills.
"But that only means Friday morning should be slamming," he
said. Based on what he's hearing from buyers, DiGregorio is
predicting record numbers for this Mother's Day. He
speculates that tilapia and salmon will be the hottest fish
items on restaurant menus.
DiGregorio has a brunch reservation for his family at Café
Botanica, the gourmet garden restaurant at the Botanical
Gardens in Livingston. With a sunny day in the forecast, he
should be in good company.
"Each year when I read about families rushing, in the last
few days, to book Mother's Day brunch or dinner, I think
they are self-conscious about not treating Mom as well as
they should have during the year," observed Ralph Knisely of
Randall Manor. He will be cooking at home for his wife,
Jane, a mother of two.
Pamela Silvestri is the Advance food critic. She writes
"Traditions," a weekly ethnic food column in the Wednesday
By Jodi Lee Reifer
Staten Island Advance - Staten
February 15, 2007
Rachel Clarke, 35, Lacey's
This master of sass arrived at
Lacey's Bridge Tavern less than
three months ago, but Clarke has
been tending bar for more than a
decade, most recently at the
now-shuttered Side Street Saloon,
where she amassed hard-core fans
over six-plus years.
Many of them jumped with her to the
Elm Park watering hole. "They're
like lost puppies. Some of them
followed me. Others I dragged by
their leashes," Clarke says,
laughing like thunder.
Loyalists say they adore her
teasing, raunchy nature. "She has
people who want to be around her.
It's not just getting drunk," says
Christopher Corbo, 23, a Randall
Manor grad student studying
microbiology at Wagner College.
Deliver a quick comeback and the
single" barkeep will lay on a
high-five. "It's all about how much
sarcasm you can dish out and take
back," she says.
Clarke first got behind the bar to
earn money to put herself through
Manhattan's Fashion Institute of
Technology. She stopped reporting to
the Fashion District after Sept. 11
and became manager at Side Street in
St. George. Her attention to detail
isn't lost on customers, they say.
avid museum-goer who pays particular
attention to the Metropolitan Museum
of Art's fashion exhibits, the St.
George resident get her kicks from
ethnic restaurants, foreign films
and books. But it may be concocting
sangria for pals that gratifies her
most. It's famous, she reminds you.
Not so gently.
Rachel's Famous Sangria:
Fill a standard size
pitcher with Merlot of Cabernet,
leaving 1.5 to 2 inches at the top.
7 counts of blackberry brandy
2 counts of triple sec
half cup of orange juice
half cup of cranberry juice
splash of cherry juice
seasonal fruit such as oranges,
apples, lemons, lime and ice
Dead End For Sidestreet
By Pamela Silvestri
Staten Island Advance, Staten
January 4, 2006
Alas, Sidestreet Saloon in St.
George has shut its doors.
The partners are going in different directions and it's
waiting to be sold, said Chris Lacey, Sidestreet co-owner
and Lacey's Bridge Tavern proprietor. With that tidbit of
news, we've encouraged Lacey to shamelessly promote his Elm
"Come to Lacey's Bridge Tavern," he said rather calmly.
So are there any New Year's resolutions in the works, Chris?
"No -- no, not really," he said.
And once again, the dry-humored Lacey's proprietor runs off
with words. Thanks for enlightening us, Chris.
Eat your heart out,
By Pamela Silvestri
Staten Island Advance,
Staten Island New York
December 28, 2006
Oh, what fun we've had
chowing down in the borough over the last year! But the
critic's hat is off for a moment to share some happy
thoughts on our Island's beautiful inventory of restaurants.
While Staten Island
certainly has its fair share of good Italian eateries,
newcomers are bringing more diversity to the dining scene.
For instance, Zest recently opened in Rosebank to offer
upscale American fare. Our shores also have been graced with
a Vietnamese place, Pho Mac at 1407 Richmond Ave.,
Graniteville; 718-982-9292. And the Asian trend continues to
make waves through the borough with Xin's pan-Asian menu --
at 2071 Clove Rd., Grasmere; 718-818-8387-- and Hokkaido
Japanese restaurant at 3295 Amboy Rd., Oakwood;
This year, our roundup
introduces a "Golden Fork Award." It is a way of giving a
general thumbs up to restaurants offering attentive service,
commendable environs and good food presented with notable
In the meantime, have a
wonderful holiday. Thank you for reading....
1. Lacey's Bridge
Tavern 75 Innis St., Elm Park; 718-273-7514
2. Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn 4254 Arthur Kill Rd.,
3. Armory Inn 316 Manor Rd., Westerleigh; 718-442-9337
4. Lento's 289 New Dorp Lane, New Dorp; 718-980-7709
5. Nini's Cafe 710 New Dorp Lane; New Dorp; 718-351-9024
6. Grasmere Grill 1204 Hylan Blvd. Grasmere; 718-442-0810
7. Gentile's Restaurant 5262 Arthur Kill Rd., Tottenville;
8. Portobello Cafe 4221 Hylan Blvd., Great Kills;
Say What, Chris Lacey?
Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY
November 24, 2006
hear applause for Chris Lacey, the
Lacey's Bridge Tavern, 75 Innis St.,
Elm Park; 718-273-7514. Lacey is
just the bee's knees when it comes
to chatter about the restaurant
business so we'll share a recent
Do you have any amusing kitchen
stories in your repertoire from time
at New York Restaurant School, years
of cooking on the line plus owning
restaurants like Sidestreet Saloon
in St. George and Roscoe's, formerly
in West Brighton?
Aside from catering pickup orders
and special requests for Kielbasi
rings are you open for Christmas?
there you have it: Shameless
promotion on the part of Chris
Lacey, a guy who digs deep to
satisfy answers to our burning
questions. We thank Chris for his
humble spirit and (since he won't)
we suggest that you pay a visit to
his place soon and try the steamed
Try Education over Regulation
Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY
October 31, 2006
Put down the chalupa and drop the
doughnut, says the Board of Health
to restaurants. The city is moving
to put the kibosh on food items
produced with artificial trans fats.
"They're really going after
fast-food providers who've made a
lot of money from people in the past
" they need to step up to the
plate," said Silva Popaz, proprietor
of Vida Restaurant in Stapleton, who
supports the proposed ban.
She points to a fiercely competitive
fast food industry that lures
customers to value meals and the
likes of 99 cent burgers. Artificial
trans fat oils are cheaper to work
with, she says, and therefore
squeeze more profit out of meals.
She already limits deep-fried items
and inventories only soy, olive and
peanut oils in the restaurant's
Seeing the writing on the wall, food
operators like KFC Corp. have
dropped artificial trans fats from
their food repertoire.
The cafeteria kitchen at Wagner
College on Grymes Hill dishes out
18,000 to 20,000 meals per week
during the school year. But the
management company " Chartwells
Higher Education Dining Services of
North Carolina " cut the bad stuff
from student's diets last April.
"There is a massive reformulation
effort by the manufacturers and
producers so many more trans
fat-free snacks and baked goods will
be made available," said Holly Hart,
director of marketing and
communications with Chartwell's.
But that doesn't mean students will
opt for more salubrious meals.
"From a nutrition perspective, we do
not encourage eating fried food in
general," said Ms. Hart. "However,
we do provide fried food choices as
requested by many of our clients...,
but we are doing so in the most
responsible manner by using only
trans fat-free oils."
In other words, young customers want
the fried goods. The food service
operator understands this and
therefore continues to sell them.
"Now we have to try to police
people's eating habits," laments
Chris Lacey, owner and chef of
Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park.
"I would want everyone to be as
healthy as possible, but how does it
become the business owner's
responsibility?" asked Lacey.
For him, the beef over trans fats
brings back memories of the smoking
ban, perceived as a revenue
generating effort by the city.
Enforcement of that measure came
with heavy fines for restaurateurs
plus hours of their time answering
Putting pressure on restaurants to
eliminate any item may be a
short-cut for the Health Department.
The agency may serve the public
better by educating consumers to
make proper choices from the get-go.
Lacey's Tavern Goes All Out
By Pamela Silvestri
Staten Island Advance, Staten
June 30, 2006
Chris Lacey introduces al
fresco dining at Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park. Lacey
steered clear of the ho-hum when putting together the
outdoor area: He built wooden tables into surrounding fences
that unfold as needed.
"They're efficient, we had them built ourselves," said
Lacey, a trained chef who co-owns Side Street Saloon in St.
George. "It keeps the yard available for larger parties,
although the weather hasn't helped over the last 10 days,"
His saloon isn't serving pub grub, by the way. French fries
and onion rings are made from scratch. Lacey keeps a garden
of fresh basil, oregano and other herbs within reach of the
kitchen. Mint is grown for mojitos.
"The mint just takes off," he noted.
Lunch time crowds favor bar pizzas and burgers. Dinner menus
focus on large portions "meant to be shared." Dishes such as
Rigatoni Caprese -- tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella in
garlic and white wine sauce for $14 -- are served with 1 1/2
pounds of pasta. Lacey points to barbecued flank steak with
homemade onion rings.
"That's $26, but it's the whole flank steak, about two
pounds average," he said, reminding of the importance of
collaborating dining partners.
With a mostly Italian theme running through the menu, a
skillet of kielbasa with sauerkraut ($14) stands out in the
mix. The Polish tradition continues from the late Walter S.
Daszkowski Jr. Daszkowski, previous proprietor who passed
away about two weeks ago, owned the tavern for 67 years.
"Bridge Tavern was renowned for its smoked kielbasa," Lacey
said. He said he has a handful of steadies for babka and
sausages, special orders that are popular on holidays such
Lacey's Bridge Tavern,, 75
Innis St., Elm Park, 718-273-7514