Biggie's Clam Bar at 318 Madison St. has been keeping locals happy for 60 years. Tucked on a quiet tree-lined back street, the restaurant is known for its boardwalk-style food and friendly atmosphere.
Here, members of the Yaccarino family, who have operated the famous eatery since 1946, treat everyone like family.
Started by 'Biggie' comedian Four generations have worked hard to provide customers with quality food in a comfortable atmosphere. In 2002, the restaurant received an award for "Family Business of the Year," and also a proclamation from Mayor David Roberts.
Specialties include tasty steamed or raw littleneck clams, charbroiled burgers, and delicious cheese steaks. The patriarch and founder Joseph "Biggie" Yaccarino came to the United States in 1900 from Italy. Before becoming a restaurateur, he performed a comedy act under the stage name of Biggie.
Then in 1941, he began going from bar to bar selling clams out of a bucket, which grew into a pushcart business. In 1946 Biggie expanded to 318 Madison St.
Biggie and his wife Rose had seven children. In 1965, the business was passed on to their son Michael, who is known to everyone as "Brother." Brother took over operations with his wife Marie and their two daughters Rose Marie and Judy.
Brother is part of the reason that regulars love the place. A charismatic man, he strives to make everyone feel welcome.
"Every customer is treated like a king or a queen," said Brother Yaccarino.
According to daughter Rose Marie Ranuro, she said her father has "the gift of people."
"He takes to every kind of person," said Ranuro. "People from very different backgrounds are all respectful to him. They enjoy him."
According to Ranuro, Biggie's was more than just a place of work for the family.
"We all worked there," said Ranuro. "We assembled there. We grew up there."
Her earliest memory is of a summer night behind the counter "serving lines and lines of people."
Family values According to Ranuro, her parents taught her the importance of hard work, which is something she has instilled in her sons Michael, 20, and Steven, 17, who also work at the family business.
"Our whole lives revolved around the restaurant," said Ranuro, "it revolved around work."
Growing up, Rose Marie and Judy came to the restaurant after school.
"We did our homework there," said Ranuro. "We're a close-knit family."
Ranuro remembered how her grandfather Biggie seemed big to her.
"My grandfather would sit outside and slice the watermelon with ease," said Ranuro. "He had such a presence about him. Whereas my father is magnetic."
Watching her parents work, she learned the value of commitment and service.
"It really has continued throughout my entire life," said Ranuro. "Those principles I apply to my own life."
In addition to working in the family business, Ranuro went to nursing school and became a nurse practitioner with a master's degree in pediatric care.
According to Brother Yaccarino, he is proud of his family, who, in addition to providing good customer service, has provided a service to the community as well.
Members of the Yaccarino clan include a policeman, a fire captain, an accountant, a doctor, a priest, a legal assistant, and a customer service representative.
The fourth generation Since 1996, Rose Marie and her husband Steve Ranuro have overseen operations, although Brother still works behind the counter two days a week.
In addition to attending school, both of her sons work at Biggie's on weekends and during the summer. The Ranuros' son Steven helped update operations by designing a Web site, adding delivery service, and accepting credit cards.
Eventually, Steven plans to take the helm, which includes plans to build a second floor and add sushi to the menu
. A recent change was to make the menu a little healthier, since customers are health conscious now. They added salads and grilled chicken or fish sandwiches to their assortment of quality food. They also added wine and beer for families that wanted to enjoy a cocktail with their food, but never dessert.
"People never wanted dessert," said Ranuro. "The unanimous answer is - we can't fit a thing."
Yet even though some things have changed, the family's commitment to service hasn't.
According to Ranuro, any day of the week customers will see a member of their large family, including her cousins. Her mother still makes the meatballs that customers love.
And Brother continues to delight customers with his friendly smile and conversation.
"You feel special here," said Ranuro. "You feel like you are at home - like you are eating with your relatives.
They love it. They enjoy being acknowledged."
Anniversary party The family has a party planned for the restaurant's 60th anniversary. On Sept. 17, the celebration will include a block party and a clam shucking competition, along with some menu items from 1946.
Roberts is awarding Biggie's another proclamation for their continued reputation and service to Hoboken.
According to Brother, the family is grateful for the town's support.
"Hoboken has been very good to me," he said.
Biggie's Clam Bar is located at 318 Madison St. in Hoboken. For more information, please call (201) 656-2161 or visit: www.biggiesclambar.com.