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Jun 1, 2004 09:28 AM

Umberto's Clam House, Little Italy INEDIBLE

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Yesterday, I was walking with my wife in SOHO when it started to rain. We turned a few blocks and ended up near Umberto's Clam House, on Broome Street.

Fueled by memories of my misspent youthful days in NYC, and some obviously flawed recollections of fresh clams, oysters and red sauce with beer in the old Umberto's location, we went in to escape the downpour.

The service was friendly and cheerful. We were invited to sit wherever we wanted. There was a table of young, uniformed soldiers in the back, noisily eating spaghetti with obvious pleasure.

A glass of house red was not bad and drinkable.

I ordered a dozen raw clams on the half shell for the two of us.

She ordered "homemade lasagna", and I got "fried shrimps with biscuits". (The biscuits with olive oil and fresh garlic was a signature dish there about 20 years ago).

The clams came almost immediately. To my distaste, they were discolored in parts, and seemed to have been sort of "half-frozen" to keep them fresh. They had a gummy texture, although they did not taste spoiled, they were distinctly unpleasant to be served in a restauarant with "Clam House" in the name.

The fried shrimp dish (hot sauce) was comparable or worse than a Stouffer's frozen entree. The shrimps were small, tough, and fried to a crisp. Obviously frozen and thawed. Obviously "food service grade" from some questionable wholesaler. The tomato sauce was barely OK. The biscuits were not as I remembered them, unfortunately.

The homemade lasagna was worse than the frozen variety from the supermarket. It was borderline inedible, no taste at all, and had been microwaved to heat it. The filling and cheese was unidentifiable and tasteless.

Unfortunately, another youthful memory blown to flinders.

The bill for this abomination came to $72 with tip, a real gyp.

Ther only suitable conclusion to a modern Umberto's meal would be similar to that photo of the guy on the floor with the cigar in his mouth in the old one, dead.

I immediately walked a block further on Broome Street and picked up two delicious Vietnamese sandwiches for the inevitable hunger later.

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    Edward Felcher

    PS: The discoloration of the clams perhaps indicated that they had been "pre-opened", possibly a day or two before, and kept in the freezer.

    A huge no-no.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Edward Felcher

      Sounds like the Olive Garden would have been a better choice.

      1. re: Edward Felcher

        Try the oysters next time--They're HUGE!

      2. While visiting NYC this weekend, we saw Umberto's Clam House heavily advertised on the hotel's "tourist channel" on TV. That is a big ole red flag to NOT go there!

        1. i'm not a fan of umberto's but why were you eating seafood at the end of a holiday wknd? you were eating seafood delivered on friday from fulton

          1. Also revisited Umberto's but in a new location. In the 70's it was one of my favorite places to eat. Ordered the shrimp with biscuits in sweet sauce and was totally disappointed. NOTHING like the original dish! I won't have to go back. (sad)

            2 Replies
              1. re: loratliff

                Too bad "paulla" didn't find it in time....