How Kim Kardashian is bringing buzz (and business) to Staten Island

When people started coming to Campania, a Staten Island restaurant known for its charcoal-grilled pizzas, and asking about “Kim,” Nicole Bressi, a waitress there, didn’t quite get it.

“I was like, ‘Kim isn’t here today, but come back tomorrow,'” Ms Bressi said. “It took me several times to realize that they weren’t talking about my friend Kim, who works here with me. They were talking about Kim Kardashian.

Last November, Ms Kardashian, the reality TV star and influencer who recently sparked debate when she wore a Marilyn Monroe dress to this year’s Met Gala, visited the restaurant in Dongan Hills, one of many Borough and Brooklyn Campanias. She was with her boyfriend, comedian and actor Pete Davidson, who was born and raised in Staten Island.

We learned of the couple’s romantic date on the rooftop of Campania, where they skipped the truffle macaroni and cheese and the $150 seafood tower, opting instead for a margherita pizza, salad and a side dish. sangria. Soon, the crowd invades the restaurant.

“It was crazy,” said Umberto Guzman, a manager. “The phone kept ringing and we had long queues every day. People wanted to sit on the roof all winter because that’s where she was sitting, but I had to explain to them that the roof was closed because it was cold.

Six months later, the attention hasn’t waned.

“So many people ask us about Kim, we are now making up stories,” Ms Bressi said. “I wasn’t even there when Kim was there, but now I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, we had coffee. That was lovely.'”

Mr. Davidson has long been an ambassador for his home borough, making a film about it based on his life and buying an old Staten Island ferry, with the intention of turning it into a place of entertainment. He apparently also has a condo in Staten Island, although he hinted that he would move to Brooklyn. One of his best-known skits on “Saturday Night Live,” where his departure was recently announced, was a version of the song “Walking in Memphis,” using lyrics about Staten Island instead. “We have about 80 bagel locations and every block has a pizza place,” he sang.

He took his ultra-famous girlfriend to all of her favorite Staten Island spots. The media and Ms. Kardashian fans — and locals looking for a kick — took notice.

Some say the attention is overwhelming. “I don’t want any more lines because it’s annoying for my clients,” Mr. Guzman said. “We’ve been busy since we opened last April because our food and service is amazing. We don’t even need her.

The couple also went to the movies in Staten Island. “You can’t get bigger than Kim Kardashian,” said Jesse Scarola, owner of Atrium Stadium Cinemas, an independent theater near Great Kills with 11 screens and arcade games. “The president could be here, and it wouldn’t be bigger.”

When Ms. Kardashian visited over the winter for a screening of “House of Gucci,” hundreds of people bought tickets or waited in the parking lot for a quick preview.

“My kids saw she was there on social media and jumped in the car to try to see her,” Christina Ortalano, 46, a Bank of America chief executive who lives in Prince’s Bay, said on the South Shore. “Some people acted like they didn’t care, but they did. People are struck by the stars.

Mr. Scarola, the owner of Atrium, is always energized by Mrs. Kardashian’s one-time visit. “Someone called a few weeks ago, someone from out of town, saying they wanted to come to the theater that Kim visited,” he said. “He rented the whole theater for his friends and paid for everyone’s popcorn and food.”

Staten Island Councilman Joseph Borelli is grateful the cineplex is getting some attention. “The atrium is kind of a throwback to an old time when kids would hang out in the movies and laugh in the back with their buddies,” he said. “The atrium was crushed during the pandemic, and it’s good that their name is in the paper for a good reason.”

Vincent Malerba, the owner of Angelina’s Ristorante, a chandelier-covered waterfront restaurant in Tottenville, said he’s no stranger to celebrities. “There are two studios in the block, one in the old jail and one in the old brewery, so we have loads of those,” he said. “But nobody did to us what Kim did.”

A photo he took with the couple received thousands of likes on Instagram. “We have never had such exposure,” Malerba said. “People started coming from Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, South Jersey, everywhere.” He hopes people will come for Mrs. Kardashian but come back for the great food and service.

“We always knew that Angelina’s and Campania were two of the greatest restaurants in town,” Borelli said. “It’s good for the Staten Island dining scene as a whole.”

Indeed, the number of visitors to Clinton Hall, a new beer garden on the waterfront at Empire Outlets in St. George, has doubled in the past three months, said Telly Hatzigeorgiou, the owner. “There are a few things going on; it’s not a one-trick pony,” he said. “It is hot now. After the Covid, people want to go out. But I think Kim definitely had something to do with it too. I hear people talking about her all the time.

Of course, not everyone wants Staten Island to get more attention.

Every summer, Ruby Hernandez, who works in learning and development for an accounting firm and lives near Times Square, escapes to Staten Island with her boyfriend on a quiet beach. “I won’t tell you where it is,” she said.

“If Kim was going there, I would want to take a picture with her, but I wouldn’t want the crowd following,” she said. “I want my beach to remain unknown. It’s nice and quiet and it’s not dirty.

Jan Zabka, a journalist from Prague, traveled to Staten Island last weekend to see the Manhattan skyline from afar. As a tourist, he said he was much more interested in seeing another female celebrity, the copper one: the Statue of Liberty.

Mr Borelli, the town councillor, said he hoped that once visitors were on the island, they would explore. “I think they would be shocked to know how much outdoor recreation there is here,” he said. “There are four miles of hiking and mountain biking trails on my block.”

Some Staten Islanders like to add glamor to their daily lives. “When I go out to smoke my cigarettes on the rocks by the river, I see Pete coming out of his apartment, which is right next to the museum,” said Jim Sarlo, 61, site manager at the National Lighthouse Museum. Sunday, although it’s unclear if the comedian still lives there. He said he saw Ms. Kardashian leaving Mr. Davidson’s condo and also heading for the ferry a few times.

“I just say, ‘Hey, supper?'” he said. “That’s what they say on Staten Island.”

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