Pismo Beach, CA

A review of Wooly’s on the Pismo pier. The home of the steamed clams I’ve been looking for.

Mark-John Clifford

New England Steam ClamsGoogle Search

As most of you know, I'm originally from the east coast, home to great pizza, seafood, and especially Italian food/restaurants. We're talking about the size of a large city like New York or Los Angele's abundance of Italian restaurants.

I can't think of one that doesn't serve clam Zuppa or steamed clams in a wine and garlic sauce within that city of Italian restaurants.

Many types of steamed clams are served within this fast city of restaurants. Some are served just steamed with their natural juices and nothing else. Possibly a little butter on the side, but that's it.

Then there are clams served baked with oregano and stuffing, better-called clams oreganata. Then there are steamers. These are clams with necks, better known as little necks that you peel a little protective covering on the neck and then dip them in juices to clean any dan off and then butter before going down your throat.

There are a host of other styles and recipes for steamed clams, but my favorite is clam Zuppa.

Clam Zuppa is clam soup. The clams are steamed open, and then white wine, garlic, olive oil, onions, Italian spices, and sometimes butter to make this mouth-watering dish.

Some recipes call for a light tomato sauce added to the natural juices, which adds another dimension to this recipe.

The thing is up until this past year on a visit to Pismo Beach, have I found a restaurant, Italian or seafood, that serves steamed clams or clam Zuppa that is worthy of being called clam Zuppa.

The Hunt Ends

While at Pismo Beach over Mother's Day weekend, while dining on great pizza and pasta at some local Pismo Italian restaurants that I've written about in the past, we walked to the end of the Pismo pier, where we found Wooly's Beach Bar and Grill.

We decided that for the moment, we were full of pizza and pasta, and a little seafood would do us some good. So in we went.


Wolly's Beach Bar and Grill is the perfect name as the restaurant is at the end of the pier, and no matter where you sit inside or out, you have the view, smell, and breeze of the ocean hitting you in the face.

We chose to sit on the deck for a better view, taste, and smell of the ocean. Plus, the ocean breeze just took away the heat we were feeling from the sun.

As we checked out the menu, Patti saw a dish consisting of three tacos that just sounded like what she was looking for, so that's what she ordered.

Fish Tacos. Patti’s orderTrip Advisor

Then like a flashing caution light, I saw them steamed clams. Not clam Zuppa as an Italian restaurant would list them, but steamed clams in white wine, garlic, herbs, and butter sauce. Clam Zuppa is the name no matter what you call it when the ingredients are those mentioned.

I read more about the dish, and it stated made with fresh clams from the area, not frozen and shipped from the east coast. That right there was a winner for me. I wanted fresh, not frozen, and here, tucked away at the end of the pier, was the home of fresh clams on the west coast.

So I ordered the steamed clams, of course, which also came with garlic bread on the side for your dunking pleasure—just like at home.

When our orders arrived, Patti's tacos looked and smelled delicious, and all she kept saying was how fresh everything was and how great they tasted—rubbing it in as much as possible.

She was teasing me since she knew I was very critical of seafood on the coast and kept wondering if the steamed clams would live up to my expectations.

The Clams Arrive

The clams arrived, and the smell was intoxicating. I knew from the smell that things were starting great. Now it was time to taste.

First, though let me describe the clams. They were small, and you could tell they were fresh just from the looks and smell.

Wooly’s Steamed ClamsTrip Advisor

The shells were white, not grey like most of the eat coast clams, and they were tiny, as I stated. Not illegal tiny, but tender tiny from the looks.

I first tasted the sauce. That first sip of the sauce off the spoon brought me back to days in New York or Boston, sitting at a local seafood haunt on the water and dipping my garlic bread in clam Zuppa and soaking up the juices.

I just found my new haunt on the coast for clam Zuppa, no matter what they called it here.

I then tasted the clams, and as expected from the looks, they were tender, sweet, and full of flavor. The taste of white wine, butter, garlic, and spices swirled around my mouth as I swallowed the first clam. From that point on, it was pure heaven.

Each clam was more tender than the previous one, and I couldn't stop eating them. By the way, I kept offering a taste to Patti, but she wasn't in the mood for clams that day; plus, as she said, "I don't think I would like clam soup."

"This isn't clam soup," I said, "this is clam Zuppa just like home."

So after a few more attempts to get here to try a clam, I did get her to try the garlic bread dunked in the juices, which she loved. That's a win in my book. The next time I'll get her to try the clams.

I kept enjoying the tastes of the clams mixed with everything and just kept thinking about how we found this spot at the end of a pier that had the taste of home.

If you haven't been here, go. If you have been here and haven't tried the steamed clams, do so.

Buon Appetito!

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Patti, my wife, and I write about life here in Fresno, California, and the Central Valley. We especially enjoy writing reviews about restaurants we've dined at, along with the food that is served. From time to time, we also write about and share recipes that we are fond of and hope you'll try them and let us know your thoughts. We are not traditional food critics. We don't have to worry about restaurants making unique dishes for us. We're just the average customer going in to dine, and then we write reviews.

Fresno, CA

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