• 2021 Dungeness Crab Season Update

    2021 Dungeness Crab Season Update

    Dungeness Crab Season in California is now open and the crabs are looking great!  Order online, or call us at 1.415.673.5868.   Toll free at 1.888.673.5868.

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  • Alioto-Lazio’s Olympian Crab Cracker

    Alioto-Lazio's Olympian Crab Cracker

    IMG_0240  Watch Alioto-Lazio’s very own Olympian Crab Cracker at work!

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  • VIA Magazine SF Fisherman’s Wharf Hidden Treasure

    VIA Magazine SF Fisherman's Wharf Hidden Treasure

    VIA Magazine Sept/Oct 2013 – “Women stayed upstairs keeping the books,” Traverso says.  But after Tom Lazio died in 1998, Traverso, her two sisters, their mom, and their grandmother took over.   Via Magazine or  the article in its entirety

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  • Families Flock to SF for a ‘Traditional’ Bay Area Thanksgiving Feast

    KQED’S STEPHANIE MARTIN: Around the country most agree that a Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without the turkey. But in the Bay Area many families say the same about Dungeness crab. The buttery sweet crustacean usually hits the market in November just in time for the holidays.

    Angel Cincotta grew up in the family that runs the historic Alioto-Lazio Fish Company, which specializes in crab. We met up with her at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, where she says customers have been lining up since the crab season opened last week.

    ANGEL CINCOTTA: They’re bringing their families, their families are coming in, and so therefore, they want the crab on the table because this is our Pacific Ocean treasure – Dungeness crabs.

    MARTIN: When the season opens locally, what is your typical day like here?

    CINCTOTTA: When opening day actually comes, you are waiting for that first load, and what we found this year – because last year there were no crabs for Thanksgiving – so this year what we found is lines out the door, and every time you look up, that line’s not getting any smaller. The phones are off the hook, which is all very positive for the business – there’s just not enough of us to figure out how to do every thing!

    MARTIN: What are some of the dangers of handling live crabs? I understand that not only can they pinch you, but there’s also poison.

    CINCOTTA: Well, it’s actually it more of a type of natural toxin that’s at the edge of their claws. So, imagine if you’re a fish swimming by, they would grab. As they grab they pop the skin of the fish, letting off this toxin, which is a natural stunner. They are strong enough to break a pencil. For a human, when they nail you and puncture your skin, again, they’re letting off that toxin. It’s technically not harmful, it’s just inconvenient and uncomfortable when your finger starts swelling up, that if you haven’t gotten it all out – there’s a problem.

    For 20 years I was nailed every year, but it never broke the skin, and this one day it broke my skin, and I didn’t know. I’d always heard the men say, “to bleed like a pig,” and if I had not bled at all, I would have been in the emergency room trying to be spliced to get that poison out.

    These guys aren’t going to kill you. You’re going to be able to enjoy THEM first.

    MARTIN: Looking at your live tanks, I can see the crabs are very active. They’re crawling over one another. You can really see them moving in there, and some of them seem to be wanting to escape. Do you ever have escapees?

    CINCOTTA: Every once in a while – 99 percent of the time, no, but we’re really diligent about watching that. Normally they will do pull-ups, and then they just give up and drop back in.

    MARTIN: Do crabs have personalities?

    CINCOTTA: I have to say they’re smart. We only harvest the males. It’s illegal to take a female. When you see them climbing around in the tanks right now, when we go to stick our hands in, they are nasty. They are not happy, and they let us know it. So, to a certain extent, you could say they have personalities – kind of like really bad teenagers.

    A crab tank at the Alioto-Lazio Fish Company on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.

    MARTIN: We’ve talked a lot about the difficult parts, but there’s got to be something fun about it.

    CINCOTTA: Oh, the whole thing’s fun. Interacting with our customers. Interacting with our skippers. The family is always together.

    MARTIN: And I notice you’ve got crabs costumes and crab hats and you kind of get into it, don’t you?

    CINCOTTA: Oh absolutely. It’s all about what you can do to make it all enjoyable, and because you’re doing 24-7, you can get so focused on the work that you lose sight of the laughter.

    MARTIN: When people sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy these crabs, what would you like them to understand about what goes into catching these crabs and processing them?

    CINCOTTA: It’s all of us – it’s not just the fishermen working 24-7 and not going to sleep at night, or never leaving their boats – it’s times when we’re not leaving the building either. There’s a lot of work amongst all of us to make this happen for the people. And so, that everyone just appreciates every level of the business, because it’s a ladder that you climb, and successfully we all work together.

    MARTIN: Well thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

    CINCOTTA: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your listeners.

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  • Dungeness crab season, most festive of all

    Here’s a toast to the most festive season in this part of the world. It’s not the one you are thinking of. We’re talking about Dungeness crab season. The crab boats are in, the stores are piled high with crab, and it’s time for family, friends, wine and French bread.

    Never mind anything else you heard, disregard the Olympian pronouncements of the celebrity chefs. Dungeness crab is San Francisco’s signature dish. “That’s for sure,” said Narsai David, an authority on Bay Area food. “I like it for its complexity of flavors and texture. I love the softshell crabs you get in the East, but this … you can’t beat it.”

    Herb Caen always said that the quintessential San Francisco meal was fresh cracked Dungeness crab, a loaf of late-bake Larraburu French bread and a glass of dry white wine.

    Caen and Larraburu are gone now, off into legend, but the crab is still here, maybe better than ever. “No matter where you go, from Miami to king crab from Alaska, there is not better crab than from the city,” said Jack McLaughlin, who has a catering business in Los Angeles. “Not even close.

    “I catered a party for Steven Spielberg in L.A.,” McLaughlin said, “and he ordered stone crab shipped in from Miami. It came with a dipping sauce and it sucked. I told him, ‘You want some crab? I’ll get you some shipped down from the city. It’s so good, you won’t have to ruin it with some dipping sauce.’ ”

    McLaughlin, a true native, refers to San Francisco as “the city” even in the heart of the Los Angeles metropolis.

    Though Dungeness crab can be found all the way south to Morro Bay and north to Seattle, local chauvinists claim that the best Dungeness is found in the waters between Point Reyes and the San Mateo County coast. Gigi Fiorucci, who runs Sotto Mare (“under the sea” in Italian) is convinced that’s true.

    Fresh crab is found in supermarkets, or even at touristy crab stands at Fisherman’s Wharf. But purists say the way to buy crab is fresh off the boat, at Alioto-Lazio Fish on Jefferson Street, where three sisters, all descendants of 19th century fishing families, sell crabs every day. Market price: $5.50 a pound live, $6 cooked. “The demand is fabulous,” said Angel Cincotta, one of the owners. “The crab is super. So good.”

    Italians have a soft spot for crab – it is deep in their local culture. For years, most of the crab boats were Italian, sailing out to sea before dawn from San Francisco, Sausalito and Half Moon Bay. The old fishermen, mending their nets on the sidewalk, were among the symbols of the city.

    The Italians usually prefer live crab, cooked in boiling water for 20 or 3o minutes, and then put in ice to stop the cooking, cracked and served with special sauce on the side. Every old family had their own sauce handed down from some old country ancestor.

    David, who is Assyrian, likes Dungeness crab at Christmas, served with his own sauce, including mayonnaise, a teaspoon of steak sauce and a secret ingredient: a teaspoon of single malt whisky.

    Crab is multicultural. The Chinese, also a famous fishing people, prepare it a little differently, cooking it, cleaning it, taking it apart and serving it fried with special spices. There is a place in Sausalito that serves a delicious dish they call crispy crab.

    There are also Vietnamese and Japanese crab dishes, each different. Crab – mostly soft shell – is used in Southern cooking as well.

    There are crab legends: Old settlers tell you that San Francisco bars used to serve free crab cioppino every Friday night. Even older settlers claim that crab Louis was invented in San Francisco just over a century ago.

    They say the bravest human in history was the one who ate the first crab, and it is still daunting to confront a live, angry, snapping crab, fresh out of the ocean. “I tried to cook a live crab once,” wrote Jennifer Duhon on a Facebook post. “I made the mistake of looking into its eyes.”

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