"Once in a while, I went to a place called Fitzgerald's, in West Brighton," recalls interior designer Mario Buatta, who, yes, grew up on Staten Island. "That was 1958, and Staten Island was the boondocks. Fitzgerald's was on the edge of a marsh. It was where the racy kids went, driving up in their roadsters. There were some great old bars back then, but there were never any dance places or anything like that."
It may have taken almost until the next millennium, but Staten Island now has Atlantis (2066 Hylan Boulevard; 718-980-1111), a dizzying 5,000-square-foot, $1.5 million (and long overdue) tribute to the lost underwater civilization. Every Friday and Saturday night, a long line of twentysomethings snake down from the club's entrance, all of them dressed in black. "No sneakers or casual dress," says Anthony Santo, a bartender and the son of owner Vito Santo. Once inside, patrons cavort amid the stucco coral reefs and dart, gobylike, into and out of deep-sea caves framing backlit wall murals of mermaids, eels, squid, and dolphins. People drink at bars decorated with rock overhangs, dance under a ceiling of marcelled waves, or attach themselves like barnacles to the champagne lounge, where crumbling Grecian columns jut out from simulated volcanic rock. "Without a doubt, it's the hottest place on the island; it's where a lot of people go before going up to the city," says one 22-year-old Staten Island barhopper, who goes even further: "The place is so phat, there's no reason to go to the city to party." Yo ho ho.