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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Newly Renovated Old Clam House Ain't What She Used to Be

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 9:30 AM

The Old Clam House's clams on the half-shell, escargot style. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • The Old Clam House's clams on the half-shell, escargot style.

How do you update a 150-year-old restaurant like the Old Clam House, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review? Do you give history a glancing nod or wrap yourselves around it? The Dal Bozzo family (owners of Stinking Rose, Calzone's, etc.) who recently purchased the Bayshore Boulevard institution, have done some of both.

They've restored the exterior of the original 1861 building, cleaned up the interior, and covered them with old photos. They've enclosed the patio and made the bar area -- the most photogenic section -- a pleasant place to sit in, day or night. And they've applied the same menu template that they use in all their other restaurants, which is heavy on Italian influences, 1980s ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, and other attempts to "gourmet" up the now-pricier food.

The Old Clam House at least a century ago, back when it was the Oakdale Bar. - BERNAL HEIGHTS HISTORY PROJECT/FACEBOOK

I'm no stickler for historical accuracy, but I had a lot of well-cooked seafood overwhelmed by needless, and often badly judged, fancifying. If the new owners want their Old Clam House to have as much longevity as its first incarnation as the Oakdale Bar (1861-1911), they might want to rethink the way they blend the old and the new.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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