Back To Benny’s

There’s something to be said about calling a place home. Is it where the heart is? Is it where our family is? Or is it simply where we go to sleep at night? For one restaurant in Hoboken, it’s all of this and something more. Home is about community. And they’ve spent 52 years feeding theirs.

Bari Drishti

The mile square city of Hoboken brings to mind many things— baseball, ol’ blue eyes, and, to those who grew up in the area, Benny’s. Bari Drishti and his wife, Sophia, opened the local restaurant, Benny Tudino’s, in 1968 at 622 Washington Street, where it has remained ever since. The following year, 1969, they welcomed their first son, Eddie Drishti, and in 1971 their second son, Arbend Drishti, was born. The location is beyond business. This is a place of family.

“We’ve been here and we grew up here. We lived on the first floor above the restaurant. This is our community. Everyone knows us. People even look at me and just say, ‘Benny’s son?’,” Arbend Drishti said.  Bari ‘Benny” Drishti passed away in 2015, three years shy of the milestone 50th anniversary of the cornerstone eatery he created. But his legacy, and recipes, live on. “It’s a honor to continue on. We’re here. It might not be my fathers face, but they know us [my brother and I]. It’s the same. And people appreciate it.”

The Drishti’s credit the restaurant’s success to one thing— consistency. The same location, the same family, and the exact same ingredients. It’s a walk down memory lane. The building’s interior is a true old-school style pizzeria— booths in front, tables in the back; photos of families old and new on the walls; images with notable celebrities; columns, drapes and oversized mirrors; and the smell of classic, New York style pizza. While other establishments change hands, expand to other locations, or shut down entirely Benny’s acts as a time capsule of a pizzeria style reminisce of yesteryear. 

“People like going back in time. It’s a moment from their lives that they can revisit,” Arbend said of the patrons that return. Sometimes customers drive for hours, and sometimes it’s a reunion after a decade of being away. 

The restaurant is a return to innocence for those who grew up in Hoboken. Days of bringing their kids or grandkids for a meal, high school students dropping by for a slice, first dates over a pie in one of the booths. Many even remember hearing Bari’s singing voice as it echoed throughout the restaurant.

“He would sit at the table and sing. At the house, he would sing. He sang because he loved it, he was a passionate person. He even had his own CD,” Arbend mentioned, pointing to the CD framed on the wall.

As the years roll on, Benny’s is about revisiting moments as much as it is about creating new ones. The kids of the past are all grown up and now they bring their own families to pass on a nostalgic tradition— going back to Benny’s.

“One time, a guy dropped in. He just got in from Florida and this was the first place he stopped. Anytime someone gets into town this is always the first place they stop by,” Eddie recalled. “My father used to say, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ We kept the food the same, and people keep coming back.”

Benny’s was made famous by their signature menu item– larger than life slices. The 32 inch pie was conceptualized by their uncle John who came to work for them in the 80s.  It’s a slice so identifiable, in fact, that the restaurant’s catchphrase, “Home of the Largest Slice” was patented by Sophia. And the flavor is equally as memorable. No frills, nothing trendy, just a good, back to the basics, cheese pizza.

Sophia Drishti

But the story behind Benny Tudino’s truly breaks the stereotype on what quality pizza should be, or where it should come from.

Bari Drishti was born of a Calabrese mother and an Albanian father. He immigrated to the United States from Albania in the 1960s and began working for Mama Leone’s in New York City. There, Bari learned the inner workings of an Italian kitchen. He loved Italian food and the sense of closeness it brought to his own mother’s cooking. He wanted to open up a place of his own but there was one hiccup. No one could pronounce his Albanian name. So, he went by his Italian nickname, Benny. 

Soon thereafter, Bari left Mama Leone’s, made his way across the Hudson and decided on Tudino’s Bakery in Hoboken, at 622 Washington Street, to be the location of his restaurant. But he knew that in order to break the stereotype of quality Italian food, and keep up appearances, he had to blend in to be successful. And so, to pay homage to the bakery before him, Bari named his restaurant Benny Tudino’s. The Italian sounding name gave his restaurant a fighting chance to succeed, or at the very least prove itself. However, he never denied his Armenian roots.

When the doors first opened, to save money, Sophia worked behind the counter and Bari paid the high school kids in pizza, who then raved about it to their friends. Word spread quickly. 

“As a kid, I remember a guy was eating a slice of pizza in front and it was a total mess. The cheese was everywhere, on his clothes, oil dripping. I told my father and all he said was, ‘That’s the best advertisement there is’. And he was right,” Arbend remembered. “My father had good business sense. But it was more than that, he was a very generous man.”

Eddie added, “We thank God for what we have, but it’s also good to give back.” 

The brothers recalled the days of their father giving away slices to those who couldn’t afford to eat, vowing that no one should go hungry. Today, they carry on their fathers memory by serving their community both in the restaurant and outside of it. Both serve on the Hoboken Police Department; Eddie is a Lieutenant and Arbend a Sergeant. And the restaurant itself donates food to the hospitals, shelter, high school, or really anyone that needs a meal. 

“Our own staff kick us out for giving away too much business,” Arbend laughed. “We always say ‘it’s on us’. We can’t help it. We just like to feed people.”

As COVID-19 takes a toll on all small businesses, make your way back to Benny’s and order directly from their website or, better yet, stop by in person and grab a slice of community.

Hoboken Sidewalk Sale and Food Crawl

The Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA) encourages you to stamp those passports, around Hoboken that is, with it’s visit-to-win passport program to support local restaurants and retailers in the mile square.

The “Shop and Dine Passport Programs” kicked off Friday, October 23 as an incentive to support local business. But it’s grabbed the attention of both locals and visitors alike with its “gotta catch em all” spirit. Fortunately, if you haven’t joined in yet there’s still time.

“Supporting the local business community and providing safe ways for residents and visitors to shop, dine, and explore Hoboken has been a priority since we launched earlier this year. The Food Crawl and Sidewalk Sales are a great way to continue the energy to support local this fall following our summer campaigns and programs,” said Gregory Dell’Aquila, President of the Hoboken Business Alliance, which was created by the Office of the Mayor and City Council as a commitment to support the local Hoboken community by stimulating business.

The Sidewalk Sales end this Sunday, November 1 but with Halloween weekend it’s the perfect way to continue that Booken spirit. Can’t spend the extra money right now? No need. Part of HBA’s effort includes business awareness, although any small purchase is appreciated to show support. Visit any any of the 27 participating retailers and collect a stamp, no purchase necessary. Once five or more stamps are collected you can turn in your completed collection for a chance to grab one of 12 gift card prizes.

Dell’Aquila continued, “Many people are missing their normal routines or trips they’re not able to take. With so many wonderful eateries and shops in the Mile Square, locals and visitors can always discover new places to enjoy and explore.”

As you collect stamps, with or without a purchase, this is a great opportunity to learn about local retailers you might’ve otherwise missed and keep them in mind for upcoming holiday shopping.

But all that [window] shopping is bound to build up an appetite. Dig into the Food Crawl at any of the 52 restaurants and eateries offering special $10 deals, or any regularly priced menu item, through November 6. The best part is, you can sit and stay or take it to go! Have five or more stamps on your passport? You could win any of the 25 gift card prizes.

“Hoboken has always been about community and the businesses are what keep our town thriving. That’s why we’re excited to give back and offer everyone even more reasons to shop and dine locally here in Hoboken,” Dell’Aquila said.

Are you ready to #GoBoken ? Visit to view all participating businesses. You can download your passport directly online or pick one up in person at any business listed.

Sidewalk Sale winners will be announced by November 13 with two grand prize winners and 10 second-place winners, with a gift certificate to the retailer of their choice. Food Crawl winners will be contacted by November 25, and each will receive a $100 gift certificate to the eatery of their choice.

Love Coffee, Love People

Since the mid-1600s coffee shops have been cultural hubs for connectivity, a place to unwind and think. As the centuries have rolled on the technology may have changed but the allure of a cozy café remains prevalent.

owner Evan Santiago holding a flat white with oat milk

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is the newest coffee shop to open in the Jersey City area, at 110 Cambridge Avenue, but many locals are already familiar with the name. Less than a year ago, owner Evan Santiago debuted Hudson County’s only mobile coffee cart on Exchange Place, which he custom built from a converted 1970s horse trailer. After only a few months of proven success, he decided to expand to a brick-and-mortar location, which opened in late November of 2019.


“My desire is to create a coffee culture that is outside of your standard norm and my brand overall is inspired by my travels and things that I went through in life,” Santiago expressed.


As an art director by trade, the decor of his new location is certainly reflective of said attitude. A hand blown glass neon sign that reads Love coffee, love people; an original wooden 1970s Pac-man with over 60 games; a display case with plant life; reclaimed wood; a real fireplace with colorfully upholstered antiquity furniture. Then there’s the eye catcher, tables made from old cast iron Singer sewing machines, a touch Santiago refers to as his signature style, creating and cutting out the wooden tops himself. 


“I wanted to create something that was a conversation starter. I curated the space as a little piece of my mind. I wanted to make it feel like home. Each space has a purpose.”

Even the location itself has a deeper purpose. Hybrid is in the same building as the Hope Center, a modernized church. Santiago is the centers acting art director and media director, taking part in over 20 free community events annually. While the center technically owns the space and licenses the brand, Santiago owns the brand itself. But it’s all filtered through the non-profit, adding real heart to this home.

“I’ve always had this desire to open up a coffee shop and to be in the service space industry. When you’re doing something like this you’re not only serving people and pleasing people, but you’re pleasing palates as well.”


In addition to the lattes, teas, coffee, and espresso, currently the food menu lists items such as avocado toast, eggs-in-a-blanket, a hybrid waffle, brioche French toast, stew sandwich, and latin style chicken soup, made by Santiago himself.

It’s rare to walk into a new place and immediately feel at ease, but Santiago has an innate capacity for empathy, a likely reason why he’s seen such success.

Hybrid brings in the local community in every aspect of business. The coffee is from Jersey City’s own ModCup, where Santiago was a consumer for many years prior to owning his own piece of the culture and various delicious pastries are sourced directly from Choc-O-Pain on Palisades Avenue.


“Coffee is full of science and full of art, to create a great drink. I want to pair good coffee with good product.”


All the dishes, cups, and stoneware are handmade from Union City based artist Jono Pandolfi, and in the corner customers can purchases pieces from missionary group, Traveling Thrift, and leather by Billy Kirk. For the future Hybrid plans to dig its roots even deeper into the community, selling local art work, product, even flowers.

“I want a space you can walk in and you feel like you can get everything. Where you can work, you can eat, you can buy a card. A place that fulfills all the needs, all the things that you need to get through your day.”

With the new year will be a new opportunity to grow. Hybrid aims have a calendar of events for the whole community to enjoy, including live music and open mic nights.

“I’m planted here. I want to grow where I’m planted. My wife and I, with our kids, wanted to build in the location where we live. It’s easy to go out, but why not invest in the city that you walk in every day?”

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is located on 110 Cambridge Avenue in Jersey City. Find them on Instagram.