Cugine Takes Us on a Tour of His Staten Island Spots

Over the last couple of years, Daniel Mondello has made his TikTok account @meals_by_cug the top destination for no-bullshit reviews of the best Italian American food in the five boroughs. As Cugine, he delivers piping-hot takes like he’s part of Tony’s crew, rating monster heroes and hot slices on a scale of one to ten madones, and taking a shot at your sister while he’s at it. But it’s no gimmick. Mondello grew up on Staten Island, the mecca of pizzerias and delis that take their muzzarell’ as seriously as their gabagool. We asked him to show us around the old neighborhood and got a tour of some top-class joints in return.



“The legendary, iconic, top-tier, top-class, best-of-the-best sandwich joint in all of Staten Island. It’s the reigning champ. I used to come here after high school all the time. They’ve got heroes, carbs for days, balsamic glaze thicker than your nonna’s coffee. A lot of How you doin’s ran through this joint, if you know what I mean.”



“Since they’ve been open, this has been my pastry shop. Lord knows I’m not making it to heaven, so this is the closest I’ll get. They’ve got pastries for days, cannoli, sfogliatelle, struffoli, rainbow cookies, napoleons, bread. You name it, they got it. For the struffoli, you gotta get here at like 6 a.m. because they sell out by 8. You’re shit out of luck if you don’t get here by then.”



“Believe it or not, five or six years ago this used to be a McDonald’s. Normally neighborhoods go the opposite way—from an Italian restaurant to a McDonald’s. Not in Staten Italy. Everything here is superb. Great price, great atmosphere, the chef is fantastic—a real class act. I’m here at least once a week either getting lunch, dinner, or taking out a sandwich real quick. The calzone with tomato sauce has got a little tang, just like your sister.”



“As a kid, I’d come here after playing at Port Richmond. You’d come with your entire basketball team and get pies for everybody, pitchers of soda, fried calamari—the whole nine yards. And then right after, you treat yourself at Ralph’s Italian Ices across the street. No matter what part of Staten Island you’re from—North Shore, South Shore, Middle Shore—you come to Denino’s. It’s an all-star spot. This was the good ole days. I’m looking back at it like, ‘Shit, I didn’t know how good I had it.’”



“I grew up going to the deli and doing my basic food shopping here. This was also my first job and where I found my passion for food. I’d go into the walk-in and wolf a sandwich down, come back with a line out the door, getting screamed at by the old manager. He was a maniac. I was just making sandwiches, cutting cold cuts, and bullshitting with the customers. Their roast beef is so rare it walks to the slicer. Every holiday we’d come here to get fresh bread. They have the best bread in the five boroughs. I don’t give a fuck. I live and die by Miggy’s bread, and so should you.”