In all my years as a yellow cabbie, not once have I taken a fare to City Island in The Bronx. But I can’t say I’m surprised by this fact. Exactly 4,634 people live on that tiny island in Pelham Bay, so in a city of eight million it would be statistically unlikely to find one of these “clamdiggers” as they call themselves. Consequently, I had no idea which of the wall-to-wall seafood restaurants along City Island Avenue were tourist traps and which were frequented by the natives.
Since I wasn’t having any luck obtaining insider restaurant information using my preferred method of interviewing a captive audience in my yellow cab, I took it upon myself to do some old fashioned leg work. I pounded the pavement in City Island seeking out the guidance of real clamdiggers. The response was nearly unanimous. A pleasure boater I spoke with in line at Jack’s Bait and Tackle, a cashier I asked at an antique shop, and a couple of drunken fishermen I found at 2 in the afternoon at a bar called Six Mile Cross were all adamant that City Islanders eat at Artie’s Steak and Seafood. They told me the food is great, the prices are reasonable, and the portions aren’t ridiculously oversized like they are at places like Sammy’s Fish Box or the Original Crab Shanty.
When I arrived and told the waitress who’d sent me, she informed me that not only are the clientele at Artie's clamdiggers, but the wait staff and chefs are as well. The owner, however, hails from Connecticut. The waitress also let me in on what to order: Little Neck clams posillipo.
My meal at Arties didn’t come with a view of the water like it would have if I had eaten at Johhny’s Reef Restaurant or Tony’s Pier Restaurant, but the food more than compensated. The clams were plentiful and fresh as could be (the NY State Dept of Health has declared that the eating of all shellfish from City Island waters is forbidden so City Island seafood comes from elsewhere). The garlic tasted like candy. The stewed cherry tomatoes blended pleasantly with the flavors. The white wine sauce was perfect for sopping up with bread. And I felt like a clamdigger.
Artie’s Steak and Seafood, 394 City Island Ave, The Bronx, 718-885-9885