Mollusk Massacre

At Nantucket Seafood and Raw Bar, there are bivalves dying foryou sins

With the clams, the choice is not as complicated: either littlenecks or topnecks, and both kinds come from a number of places on the East Coast. (Nantucket's doesn't carry colossal Cherrystones, big as a man's fist.) Littlenecks, as the name indicates, are smaller than topnecks, but I believe these have a sweeter, slightly more intense flavor, though I'm told they're basically the same clam, different size.

Guaragna ships in his shellfish daily, and it is so fresh that you don't need the house-made cocktail sauce or the side of horseradish that's included. But my palate does backflips for horseradish mixed with that crimson condiment, and I used plenty. After downing more of these fruits of the sea than a trio of walruses, we found ourselves still, curiously, peckish. To remedy this, we shared two thick sandwiches, one of Dungeness crab, and one of Bay shrimp, as well as a bowl of Sicilian-style crab, a specialty of the house. The sandwiches hit the spot, but opinion was divided on the Sicilian-style crab, loath though I am to show displeasure with anything or anyone Sicilian. The crab came drenched in oil, vinegar and spices, and I found it too spicy for someone of my Protestant upbringing. Well, not that it was really too spicy, but the mixture of spices seemed to disagree with me. Nevertheless, I'd still recommend it to intrepid noshers.

Nantucket offers a limited list of beer, wine and martinis, and this is something Guaragna should work on. The restaurant has difficulty getting Snottsdalians to belly up to the barstool, but a better selection of beers might help. I'm not suggesting he turn the place into an alehouse, but rather install a couple of taps in addition to the two or three he has and see what happens. Also, beefing up the wine list couldn't hurt. Traditionally, one's supposed to enjoy oysters with Chablis, so why the meager offerings in that department? Though no other hard alcohol was on hand, the place does possess all the good vodkas (Mikey was pleased and punch drunk by the time we left) with which to make a mean Maratini.

There once was a man from Nantucket .  .  .
Jackie Mercandetti
There once was a man from Nantucket . . .

Details

Bowl of clam chowder: $4.50
Bay shrimp sandwich: $8.95
Sicilian-style crab: $15.95
Half-dozen clams or oysters on the half-shell: market price (usually $6.95 to $8.50)

480-778-0800. Hours: Lunch, Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Monday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner, Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Monday and Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.

7000 East Shea, Scottsdale

Finally, there's the ambiance, or lack thereof. I know this shtick works in places with harbors and sea gulls, but by Job's pajamas, we're in the bleedin' desert, bucko! We want some escapism when we pay more than $20 per person eating out. And a photo of some old sea dog holding a flounder and smokin' a corncob pipe don't cut it. As with my suggestions per the alcohol situation, you don't have to go nuts and have your servers dress like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, but some sawdust on the floor and simple red-and-white-checked tablecloths would work wonders. Nail a starfish or two to the wall and put up curtains or screens so we can forget for a moment that we're in a Scottsdale strip mall filled with Beamers and Benzes.

As far as sheer consumption goes, Nantucket's is almost as tight as Meg Ryan's new face-lift. Now, if the place were to put one-tenth of its effort into the decor, it could have a whale of a time in the shellfish business.

E-mail stephen.lemons@newtimes.com

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