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June 19, 2018

DiNardo's Famous Seafood closes after 42-year run in Old City

Owner of Philly crab house cites challenges getting crustaceans among reasons for shutting down the restaurant

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DiNardo's Famous Seafood Source/Google Street View

DiNardo's Famous Seafood was a staple in Old City for 42 years before closing in June 2018.

A longstanding seafood restaurant in Old City closed its doors for the final time Monday night, capping off 42 years as one of Philadelphia's top destinations for steamed crabs.

DiNardo's Famous Seafood, located at Third and Race streets, served its last all-you-can-eat platters to a steady stream of local crab lovers who considered this the best spot in town.

"We're all pretty sad," said owner Liz Massimo, who has run DiNardo's for the last 28 years. "We finished out business to the last minute. We were supposed to wrap up on Father's Day, but opened again because so many customers wanted to be here. Some of them just came in to see us and have a drink."

DiNardo's opened its doors in 1976 with a specialty in jumbo Gulf Coast crabs. Their platters also included blue claw, Alaskan king, snow and Dungeness crab specials.

Massimo explained that strains on the crab supply were partly a factor in the decision to close.

"We're a crab house and it's a product that's particularly difficult to get," Massimo said. "There have been environmental issues limiting the supply of gulf coast crab. We used to be one of the few here buying those products. We see the city changing. All of that's positive, but the corporate restaurants are piling into the city, and that makes it a little more difficult for the independents."

Massimo took over the business from her father, Ralph Patrone, who was with the team for Monday's nights final business hours.

"Sadly, as an institution, everyone's like, 'Why? This shouldn't be happening. You're supposed to be here,'" said Kathy Haas, a long-time employee at DiNardo's.

"It's rough," Massimo added. "These people have been working here for 20, 30 years, most of them. We feel it's time to go. We put a good, if not great, run in. Hopefully, we made people happy."

Massimo said there was a special moment Monday night after the last customers left the restaurant. Lou, a bus boy who started at DiNardo's when he was 14 and remained there until the restaurant's closing, always was the staffer who sang happy birthday to customers.

He got to do that one last time on Monday.

"Everyone just stood in a circle, danced and sang with Lou," Massimo said. "That's a moment that will forever remain in my mind and heart."