More Than 80 Years of San Francisco History
Founded in 1925
Alioto’s Restaurant, a San Francisco landmark located on Fisherman’s Wharf, has long been part of San Francisco ‘s rich history. What grew to become an institution in San Francisco dining actually began as a fresh fish stall, founded in 1925 by Nunzio Alioto, Sr., a Sicilian immigrant. At the time, the Wharf consisted of an enormous lumber yard, train tracks, a union hall and wholesale fisheries. At Stall #8 Nunzio sold lunchtime provisions to Italian laborers. Business grew steadily and by 1932, he constructed the first building on Fisherman’s Wharf by combining the fish stand with the seafood bar specializing in crab and shrimp cocktails, and steamed crabs.
Nunzio Alioto’s plans came to an abrupt halt in 1933 when he passed away. He was survived by his wife Rose and their three children. Left with no other means of support, Rose took over the business, becoming the first woman to work on the Wharf. By 1938, she installed a kitchen and officially opened Alioto’s Restaurant. It was here that Rose Alioto created a shell-fish stew called Cioppino which became a San Francisco culinary legend.
Word Spread Quickly
A number of historical events contributed to Alioto’s phenomenal growth and he eventual establishment of Fisherman’s Wharf as San Francisco’s most popular tourist destination. Both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges in 1937, San Francisco was quickly becoming the urban center of Northern California. In 1939, the San Francisco Exposition and World’s Fair brought tourists from around the world to the City. The restaurant flourished, yet it was not until the onset of American’s participation in World War II that its reputation became firmly established. Fisherman’s Wharf became one of the Ports of embarkation for sailors. Alioto’s kept busy serving fresh seafood and hearty clam chowder to these men and their families – and word about Alioto’s delicious food quickly spread.
The restaurant continued to expand as public demand grew for Alioto’s seafood dishes. By 1950, Rose enlarged her restaurant by purchasing her neighbor’s stall. On the joint property, she built a one-story building Alioto’s Restaurant underwent a second major face lift in 1957, when a second story was added, making it the tallest building on the Wharf.
A disastrous fire gutted Alioto’s Restaurant that same year. Undeterred, the family, let by Rose, rebuilt the restaurant from scratch on the same site. Fortunately, rescued from the devastating fire was a call composed entirely of thousands of clam shells, saved from diners’ meals through the decades. The wall still stands today in the entrance to the main dining room.
Generations of Recipes Handed Down
Alioto’s unique menu offers distinctive Sicilian recipes handed down through the Alioto family. The Sicilian dishes can be identified by the three-legged triangle next to the menu item.This symbol, called the “trinacria” represents the three corners of the island. Also on the menu are traditional seafood specialties of the Wharf, standards such as fried calamari, crab and seafood salads. The restaurant has a full time seafood buyer who purchases only the freshest and choicest cuts of fish available. The menu’s cover design reflects the vibrant colors and patterns found in Sicilian ceramics, and are reminiscent of the work of the famous artist De Simone.
The Wall of History
In 1998 the Alioto’s proudly commemorated their seven decade family’s history in a permanent exhibit, The Wall of History. Located in the restaurant’s stairwell, this collection of photographs, newspaper clips, old menus and postcards date back to 1925. The exhibit chronicles the growth of Fisherman’s Wharf from a sleepy fishing village to an international tourist destination.