A drawing my sister Nicki made of the Fisherman’s Wharf
Excerpt from Memories of the Fisherman’s Wharf
I grew up in a seafood restaurant. My family owned The Fisherman’s Wharf on Mott Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy from the mid-1940s to 1958. . . The offerings were mostly seafood but there was also steak and chicken, as well as some Italian-American dishes like spaghetti and meatballs. I loved shrimp, and the deep-fried breaded gamberetto with lots of ketchup was my favorite. The shrimp and rice special was pretty good too. Only, I’d have to pick out all of the pieces of celery before I ate it—I didn’t eat any green food back then except pickles. . .
. . . they usually started with a few drinks and dinner in one of the local restaurants; Sweet’s, Carmine’s, or Sloppy Louie’s, now all long gone. . .
. . . Anyone could walk out on the pier where they docked, although no one did unless they were in the seafood business. The pier smelled of sea water and fish, and while the fish couldn’t have been fresher, it still smelled, especially in summer. . .
. . . the piles of clams and oysters heaped like stones. What seemed like sea monsters to me were the giant, decapitated swordfish, sliced crosswise to show the quality of the steaks, the heads on display, their swords pointing at the customers. Always enthralled with crabs, I loved chasing the escapees skittering sideways down the street. . .
. . . The longshoreman worked all night, so instead of scrambled eggs or pancakes, they’d eat a hearty meal of roast beef and turkey with fried potatoes and hot cherry peppers. Everyone drank coffee, steins of beer, and shots of whiskey. I’d have a Coke but otherwise ate everything they did. The cook would tell my father, “The kid’s got a good appetite.”
. . . For some of the clam dishes, Michele often used large chowder clams he’d chop into small pieces, and that’s what led to the problem in the cellar. The clams were kept on ice and covered with damp burlap to keep them alive and fresh. Sometimes when clams are out of water, the shells begin to open. . .
. . . I wasn’t to go near the lobsters which had much stronger claws than the crabs. They came packed in seaweed and ice, in open-sided crates, with wooden pegs wedged into the joint at the base of their claws so they couldn’t open them.
“Pero,” Michele said, “some-a time, the peg, she slip out.”
Michele hardly had to warn me. The lobsters’ fierce looks were enough to keep me away. . .
For the complete Memories of the Fisherman’s Wharf
For Michele’s Deep Fried Breaded Gamberetto and Shrimp and Rice
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