When Lenny’s Clam Bar ran television commercials years ago, owner Joe DiCandia Sr. became something of a local celebrity, famously offering viewers a free glass of wine to any diner who came to the Howard Beach hotspot and mentioned his name.
They still honor that promotion to this day even though the senior Joe DiCandia has long since handed the restaurant reins over to his son, Joe Jr. It’s part of a 42-year history of charm, tradition and good food that Lenny’s has offered to generations of customers who’ve come through its doors.
There have been changes to Lenny’s through the years, most notably after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which flooded it and many other Howard Beach businesses. DiCandia Jr. “turned a negative into a positive,” rebuilding the clam bar larger than before, as it expanded into a neighboring business.
Even with change, much of the staff — from line chefs to attendants — has been there for 20 years or longer. And the restaurant’s menu mainstays — sumptuous seafood and classic Italian cuisine — continue to attract customers from far and wide.
Naturally, the clam features prominently on the menu. The baked clams ($7.95 a half-dozen, $12.95 a dozen) are a great way to start your meal whether you’re a seafood lover or looking to try seafood for the first time. The cheesy breading complements the perfectly cooked clams, which offer diners that briny note of flavor that only fresh seafood can provide. Lenny’s also offers raw clams ($7.75 a half-dozen, $12.50 a dozen) and oysters ($12.95 for eight) on the half-shell, served with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce.
The seafood possibilities are almost endless when it comes to the main course. On our date to Lenny’s, my wife enjoyed the stuffed shrimp ($19.95) featuring mounds of scrumptious crab meat in a lemon wine butter sauce and served with potatoes and broccoli. You can also get broiled scallops or Norwegian salmon ($19.95 each) or breaded and baked lobster tails ($17.95 single tail, $24.95 for a double).
As an Italian food lover, I certainly enjoyed the chicken cutlet parmigiana ($18.95), a generous portion of perfectly cooked chicken breast covered in a zesty tomato sauce and served with linguine on the side. Other Italian specialties to try include the chicken sorrentino ($21.95) topped with tomato, prosciutto, eggplant and mozzarella in Madeira wine sauce and the linguine with red or white clam sauce ($14.95).
Lenny’s offers seemingly anything to suit anyone’s appetite, from tender barbecue baby back ribs basted in the house barbecue sauce to a boneless shell steak off the grill cooked to order. The kids menu features cheeseburgers, pasta or mozzarella sticks.
Whatever you order, save room for dessert, as Lenny’s offers an incredible variety of sweet treats straight out of the DiCandia family cookbook. Their homemade cannoli is light and sweet without being too heavy, while the pistachio bomb — a tartufo ball of pistachio ice cream with a chocolate shell and a raspberry sauce — is an explosively tasty and delightful way to end a meal.
Times may always change, but Lenny’s Clam Bar still reigns as the champion of classic seafood and Italian fare in Howard Beach.
Lenny’s Clam Bar
161-03 Cross Bay Blvd., Howard Beach