Friends came in from Staten Island on Saturday and had gotten a recommendation to eat at Little Charlie's Clam Bar on Kenmare between Bowery and Elizabeth. I was skeptical since that it is near enough to Little Italy to raise red flags. But I went along, and was glad I did.
While it will not be one of the most memorable meals ever, it was very solid and definitely one of the better places I have been in Little Italy. It is a small restaurant with maybe 20 tables, checkered table cloths, the whole bit.
The waiter told us all the seafood was as fresh as can be, and it did not disappoint. We started with a delicious order of baked clams that was drowned (in a good way) in a great buttery garlicky sauce that we had to sop up with bread. Oh, the bread -- they bring it out with two bowls of red sauce, one sweet, one "medium" which had a nice kick to it. Both sauces were delicious. The only mis-step was the cold antipasto plate we ordered -- the cheese and salad parts were solid, but the meats did not taste fresh nor of high-quality -- they were kind of rubbery and bland.
The waiter also told us that they basically will make any combination of anything we see on the menu. I opted for calamari and shrimp over linguini in a garlic and oil sauce. The seafood was lightly fried and so, so fresh. My friend did the same combo with the medium sauce over penne -- the sauces come in mild (sweet), medium and hot. Next time I would get the hot to try the fra diabolo experience. The third in our party had angel hair with baked shrimp in a delicious vodka sauce. None of us finished these dishes as they were so huge.
For desert, we split one huge, absolutely drop-dead delicious cannoli.
Overall, it was a very nice red-sauce italian experience with an emphasis on the seafood. I wouldn't necessarily run back, but the next time someone wants to go out in Little Italy, it will be near the top of my list.