In a town with so much history, residents are often fearful when they hear a historical landmark is changing hands. Last spring, new owners rebuilt the 112-year-old Clam Broth House in downtown Hoboken – but then, they recently sold it.
Now, the newest new owners, who already own a popular restaurant on the west side of town called Biggie’s Clam Bar, say they will fuse the traditions behind both clam restaurants to offer an incredible seafood experience. Like the Clam Broth House, Biggie’s Clam Bar also has a history in Hoboken, albeit six decades instead of a century.
The Clam Broth House will become a new branch of Biggie’s.
The Clam Broth House, at 36-42 Newark St., was a popular watering hole for the city’s dockworkers in the early 1900s. The restaurant – which denied entry to women until the 1970s – boasted a famous sign of a hand on its roof, pointing patrons toward its entrance. Customers who had visited during the 1960s and 1970s encountered a floor littered with seafood shells and a public canteen that dispensed free clam broth at the bar.
The location eventually closed in 2003, to the dismay of many residents. Roughly a year later, Hoboken native Danny Tattoli, his wife Jolene, and his brother Vito – the owners of local bar Four L’s – bought the building and name and intended to restore its fixtures and menu.
After a long legal battle for the transfer of the liquor license, the Tattolis finally opened the restaurant last spring. But recently, the Tattolis sold it to the owners of Biggie’s, which has been known for its clams, hot dogs and burgers since 1946.
The newest branch of Biggie’s Clam Bar will have much of the same charm of the old Clam Broth House, says new owner Mike Ranuro.
“We’ve been doing it for a long time as well,” said Ranuro, a member of the fourth generation of the family that is responsible for Biggie’s success.
Biggie’s has been a staple in Hoboken since Joseph Yaccarino, a comedian with the stage name “Biggie,” founded the restaurant at 318 Madison St. in 1946. It remains there today.
According to Ranuro, Biggie founded the bar after gaining a reputation selling raw claims from pails to the bars of the blue-collar Hoboken. Once the restaurant was opened, it became the go-to place for raw clams on the half shell.
In the last few years, Biggie’s has since expanded to Caltstadt, N.J., and Kingsport, Tenn. “We’re really excited about our most recent locations and the chance to serve a new and diverse set of customers,” said Ranuro. “At the same time, we’ll always remember where we came from, and those loyal customers who have supported us the whole time.”
The menu offers a variety of seafood dishes, including mussels, shrimp, and crab cakes. Biggie’s has also developed a reputation for their diverse set of sandwiches, which are typically topped with their famous peppers and onions. Sandwiches include cheese steak, buffalo chicken, and chicken parmesean.
He expects it to open in April.
The Ranuros aren’t sure why the Tattoli family decided to sell. But they jumped on the idea when they heard that the restaurant was for sale.
“We think it’s a great location,” said Ranuro. “It’s right in the heart of Hoboken and there is a lot of action in that area.”
The building is known for its dark mahogany wood floors and bistro décor, although it is notably less gritty than its previous incarnation. Ranuro said that his family intends to preserve much of the look of the building, with only minor renovations.
“We’ll be doing very little renovations on the inside,” said Ranuro. “We’ll just be making it fit our model. The space is really beautiful. It’s built very well.”
The restaurant will have a full bar with 20 taps, high top seating, and a dining-friendly area. Biggie’s signature clam bar will be built in the back, as well as a downstairs private room/party room.
“The Clam Broth House was a Hoboken icon for many years,” said Ranuro, “and we’re proud to bring our own Hoboken tradition there.”
He expects the new location to open in April.
“We can’t wait to attract and serve a new generation of Biggie’s customers,” he said.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.