Staff Says Fond Goodbye as ‘The Claw’ Restaurant Departs Surf CityEmployees Made Lifelong Friends, Served Some Celebrities
As “The Claw” in Surf City retreated to demolition, the new owner has approvals for two commercial spaces with apartments above, and two homes to the west. Architect Enzo Pavese of The Pavese Group in Clark is marketing the front of the new property the group owns at 3 North Long Beach Blvd., as potential restaurant or retail space in a contemporary building, the sign outside shows.
Yet the friendships and memories made in The Claw will be forever, says the former staff. It is the end of an era for those who gathered on social media to toast the good times together at one of those rare places where work became “family.”
Previous owner Tyrone (Ty) von Gorski passed away 18 months ago after running the Lobster Claw for nearly 20 years. It was one of his several local ventures in the seafood industry, including time as a fisherman out of Barnegat Light in the late 1970s.
“My kids loved their dad to the moon and back. They honored his memory by keeping The Claw going for two more seasons after his passing,” said his widow, Sharon von Gorski, the school nurse at the LBI Grade School for the past 28 years. She sold the restaurant in January. She said she will miss that involvement in the community.
“The memories will always be in our hearts even though the building is gone.”
The restaurant’s name was shortened from The Lobster Claw after the original sign was lost in Superstorm Sandy, which pulled everybody together for reconstruction. When they ordered the new sign, they just unofficially made it “The Claw” because that’s what they all had called it, said employee Sandi Smith-Lusk.
The “lobster twin” – two whole lobsters with all the trimmings – was a favorite dish at the restaurant. Not all recent residents may have realized the list of other popular establishments run by Ty von Gorski.
“We originally started in the seafood business in 1978 when my husband had a fishing boat built in New Hampshire,” said Sharon. “They went tilefishing back then out of Barnegat Light. He already owned Sportsman’s Marina when we married. We bought George’s Dock from my father-in-law in Beach Haven, and opened the original Beach Haven Fishery.
“We bought the Lobster Claw property from Bill Willem in 1995. It was formerly Bill’s Seafood Restaurant.”
Many guests became friends and regulars, and a few surprise celebrities also came to dinner, as hostess Heather Pascarelli recalls.
“We had so many amazing people in and out of that little restaurant. Lauren Hutton was filming a commercial on LBI. Her crew placed a huge take-out order, and she came to pick it up. I was at the counter and realized who she was, and I’m trying to be just normal, and not gush or anything. And Ty comes out of the kitchen and says, in his huge, booming voice, ‘You look just like – no, you couldn’t be; you’re much too young to be her.’”
Pascarelli continued, “And I’m elbowing him – which was about as effective as a gnat on a bear – and Sharon and I are standing now on either side of him; I’m whispering, ‘It is her!’ And Sharon is smiling at her and saying, ‘Just ignore him.’ And she smiled ... and Ty starts again going on about how much prettier she is in person and how he can’t believe it’s really her. And she’s completely charmed. And she orders from us for the next four nights.”
Ray Romano patronized The Claw a few years ago and evoked another variety of buzz.
“It’s towards the end of the night, I’m at the door, looking at our numbers,” recalled Pascarelli. “Someone comes in and says, ‘Can you take a party of 13?’ and without looking up I chuckle and say, ‘You sound just like Ray ...’ and I realize I’m looking at him.
“So, I change gears, say, ‘Absolutely! Can you give me just a minute to put a table together?’ And I run to the kitchen to tell them, realize that one of the takeout girls is completely frozen in place – huge fan,” Pascarelli said, contrasting that the best server, AJ, did his part in everything going perfectly, and then after they left, asked, “Who was that?”
More than one engagement party at The Claw was for a couple who had their first date there. Pascarelli once carried a diamond ring around in her pocket all day, after the hopeful fiancé dropped it off. They hid it in a loaf of bread, and everybody in the restaurant knew what was going on and held their breath when the girl didn’t want any bread at first.
“It was a family restaurant in every sense of the word,” said Pascarelli. “If you worked there, you were a part of the family. There were times when we were shorthanded, and we would call someone who hadn’t worked there in years, and they would dust off their Claw shirt, grab an apron and jump in! You just did. Because Ty and Sharon and the rest of the family would do anything for you.”
The Claw was von Gorski’s “baby,” said Sharon, who worked there in the summers in what she described as a “mom and pop” business that their children were involved in. Daughter Jessica worked there for 20 years, daughter Carrie for many years, and older children Christian and Rebecca helped in aspects such as advertising, design and construction, especially after Superstorm Sandy.
The memories shared give others a fun, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the hospitality business.
“The time Ed sat in the corner of takeout with a new mop on his head, pretending it was a wig – then forgot he was wearing it and started helping a customer,” listed Pascarelli. “The night Ted Hammock was our host, but only because we told him he could bring his guitar and be a ‘strolling musician.’ Sandi, who came with the building, and did everything from waitressing to busing to cooking to prepping to grocery shopping to sewing aprons to making curtains ... We’ll always have the summers at The Claw.”
Von Gorski was described as someone whose gruff exterior disguised a “marshmallow” interior, and he liked the camaraderie.
“So don’t be sad for more than a minute!” encouraged Sharon to past employees on Facebook the day in late September that the wrecking claw began clearing a smooth lot for the new owners. “Life is about the people we love and care about, and the memories we make with them along the way. Ty would be the last person that would want us to be sad. Can’t you just hear that booming voice now?”
Added Smith-Lusk, “Everyone worked together and helped each other out; whether you were back or front of the house or takeout/market, we became one family. Many friendships remain from those years together.”