This watering hole has a huge bar, and it’s a good thing. Just about everyone in Bayonne considers the Big Apple his or her neighborhood bar. Owned by the Bottino family, the Big Apple celebrated its 38th anniversary in March.
Elaine and Vincent Bottino bought it in 1976. Now their oldest son, Vinny, his wife, Toni, and his brother John run it.
The Big Apple is a big, welcoming place, but Vinny acknowledges that not too many “outsiders” find their way here. “It’s not like Hoboken, where there is a constant flow of outsiders,” Vinny says. “It’s like Cheers. Everybody knows everybody. I’ve been dealing with Bayonne people all my life.”
The bar offers more than 30 televisions, including six large screens, so of course it’s hard to imagine a sporting event that you couldn’t find here. But if you were going to just watch a game, you could stay home. Folks come to the Big Apple for the camaraderie. It’s such a popular sports bar that even professional players come in, including Zak DeOssie of the New York Giants and Kenny Daneyko of the New Jersey Devils. “It’s a big Devils bar,” Vinny says.
Folks also come for the food. It’s famous for its buffalo wings, which come in three sizes with a variety of sauces, and for its thin-crust pizza which won Best Bayonne Pizza of the year in 2012.
Twelve years ago, the family bought the karate school next door and made it into a restaurant. This is a family eatery specializing in Italian food. It also offers catering and will host private parties.
Everyone living in and around Bayonne endured, along with the rest of the East Coast, one of the worst winters in recent memory, so Big Apple regulars couldn’t wait for the restaurant’s Tiki Bar to open.
It’s in an enclosed area in the back, but sports fans don’t have to worry. There are plenty of televisions out there, so that you can enjoy the game and the weather. “It’s not like the Jersey Shore,” Vinny says, “but you can break the monotony by being outside with music.”
Like so many businesses in Bayonne, the Big Apple prides itself on its community spirit. Says Vinny, “We sponsor football, basketball, and baseball teams—Little League, Cal Ripkin. Families come back here after games.”
In 2004, the New York Times wrote a big feature on the Big Apple, positioning it as a constant amid the many changes the town has gone through in the last few decades. Vinny told the Times, “I love Bayonne. I’ve been here all my life. I’m happy here. My kids are happy. … Sometimes I think about leaving here, but then I thank, nah, my heart’s here in Bayonne.”
That’s something that will never change.—Kate Rounds
Big Apple Sports Palace