Joe Villari’s ambitious overhaul of a spacious Somers Point establishment is a striking addition to the area’s dining and social scene.
It’s a safe bet Joe Villari’s successful operation of three other southern New Jersey restaurants hinged on a commitment to quality on several fronts, a knowledgeable staff being keynote to the overall package.
He certainly would not seem to skimp on grade of design either, as evidenced by the outstanding transformation of a sizable structure on East Maryland Avenue in Somers Point that had existed under a couple of different names in recent years. And those who have frequented either of those forerunners would have a better sense of how much time, energy and expense went into the nearly yearlong undertaking that would become Clancy’s by the Bay.
A basic layout remains much the same out of structural necessity, but the décor and general ambience are otherworldly compared to its predecessors.
Part of the transformation is a renewed commitment to an energetic social scene, as some form of entertainment has been going only almost nightly throughout the summer and intends to continue in earnest through the fall months and beyond.
“We’ll probably scale it back primarily to weekends [after summer] but we’ll also be doing plenty of special events, private parties and fun things geared around the holidays,” says Clancy’s manager Kathy Varallo. “We recently had a 60th reunion that was a lot of fun, and local organizations like Shore [Medical Center], Cape Bank, AtlantiCare, the teachers’ association — they generally all do a monthly Happy hour here that’s like a group open-house. It’s a fun night out for them.”
Clancy’s also does a seven-hour Happy hour every Monday through Friday that starts as soon as they open (11am) and includes $2 domestic drafts, $3 imported drafts and domestic bottles, $3.50 glasses of house wines and $5 select martinis. Appetizer specials are also run weekdays in the main bar area ($5 each from 3-6pm) and include such items as fish tacos, red or white mussels, buffalo or chili wings, Tuscan chips, and pierogies and keilbasa.
Chef Barry Sullivan brings a personal touch to some menu items, while others remain Villari’s personal favorites and crowd pleasers that follow unwavering recipe guidelines.
“Joe has his favorites and basically told me not to touch them, and I couldn’t argue because I worked in Ocean City [at Clancy’s by the Sea] and know what dishes didn’t need to be messed with,” says Sullivan. “There was a list of some others where we were able to tweak a couple of things here and there.”
Entertainment-wise, Vallaro has brought in the Bob Pantano Dance Party every Sunday night, DJ Steve & Company on Fridays and Saturdays, and has hosted a sing-along with local favorite Lori Kelley on Mondays. There’s also been a regular weekday slate of live bands, and one of the most popular has been a trio called the Barrel House Boys every Tuesday.
The Barrel House Boys — bassist Bruce Mulford, banjo/guitarist Tony “Skull” DiMeo and sax player Brian Saunders — are three-fourths of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Pep Band (the fourth member, saxophonist Bobby Mansure, books all the gigs but does not perform at Clancy’s).
Once the silver anniversary of the Somers Point Bayfest is in the books, mosey on over to Clancy’s By the Bay, where the live music will be in full swing until 1am.
Few establishments anywhere on the East Coast can match Laguna Grill & Rum Bar’s prime location, where patrons can literally step from the property’s perimeter and onto the beach in Brigantine.
As we all try to get back in the rhythm of life post-Sandy, I decided that instead of waiting until Friday, I would ignore the wet snow being dumped by last night’s storm and head out to one of Somers Point restaurants participating in this week’s Somers Point Restaurant Week.
Margate’s Music Revival
A ‘Haven’ at Golden Nugget
Life in the Laugh Lane
Pat Martino Plays the Point