Last month, “06880” wandered back to the Clam Box — the much-loved restaurant on the site of the current Bertucci’s.
Plenty of readers commented on the post, and passed it along to friends. It worked its way to Doris Gross Nussbaum. She’s the daughter of the original owner, and now lives all the way in Wilton.
Earlier this week, Doris emailed:
Back pre-1938 my Dad, George Gross, had a restaurant in New York City: Cooper’s Fish & Chips, on 44th and Lexington.
In 1939 he couldn’t take the commute from Port Chester. He opened the 1st Clam Box in Cos Cob. The name was easily picked because the front window flaps opened upwards and looked like a Chinese take out box.
My copy of the original menu has Fish & Chips for 25 cents. The place was successful, and a year later Dad opened in Westport. He made head chef Steve Zakos his 50% partner.
Integrity was big in those days, and Dad felt that Steve — who came from the coal fields of Pennsylvania, and had worked with him in New York City — deserved the “gift.”
Because they worked 12 to 14-hour days, 7 days a week, that was a gift with strings!
Both restaurants were successful, although Westport had to close during World War II. Steve became a chief petty officer and head cook on a Navy battleship.
After the war, when Steve opened again, it was a charm. Times were right, and business was very good. Eventually Steve married Claire Fitch, and had 3 children. They still live in the area. In those days every family member worked the same long hours in Cos Cob and Westport.
In 1965 a 3rd Clam Box opened in Wethersfield. My husband and I ran it for 15 years. The 10 Gross grandchildren and 3 Zakos kids all said “no more!” They had been to college, and found there were activities other young people did on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays besides work.
In 1985, the Westport and Cos Cob Clam Boxes were sold to the Marketing Corporation of America, and we all retired. We had a good run for sure — 48 years.
One of the comments you received asked why it was sold. I guess that person had never been in the restaurant business, with all its long hours .