Ralph Pagano’s Naked Crab brings fresh seafood & whimsy to Fort Lauderdale.
By Michelle Payer|Photographs by Ricardo Mejia
Ralph Pagano is getting Naked in Fort Lauderdale. Following the success of Naked Taco on Miami Beach and Naked Lunch in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, the Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Chef alum has opened Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen and Cocktail Bar in Fort Lauderdale’s B Ocean hotel, formerly the Rat Pack favorite Yankee Clipper.
B Ocean has undergone a complete transformation, while retaining glimpses of its history and storied past as a favorite of 1950s-era entertainers. Turn left at The Florida Bar and down the corridor toward the neon-lit Naked Crab sign, you’ll see photos of Marilyn Monroe and her contemporaries (sans entourage), the original Clipper Room menu (soup, .15) and memorabilia from another era. And then with a flash of neon, one enters the dimly lit den of Naked Crab, or as Chef Pagano describes it, “a stripped-down, dressed-up crab and seafood house, cooking up classic signatures with the freshest, most delicate, impeccably sourced fish and sushi, where fundamentally, raw is hot.”
The man has a way with words. Part entertainer with a wicked sense of humor and fondness for hip hop, poker and horse racing, Chef Pagano brings his signature
whimsy to the 150-seat restaurant that has both indoor and curbside patio seating. A multicolor neon sign
on one wall reads: “Teach a man to fish,” above a freehand drawing of squid and fish playing a game of poker while a seahorse looks on. Miami graffiti artist Carlos created this and other playful pieces on walls, columns and supporting beams for a quirkiness that matches Chef Pagano’s mischievous side.
The menu is varied, fusing food and flavor during breakfast, lunch and dinner. The “all day” menu is divided into a variety of sections, from starters including standouts Bacon, Eggs & Toast with osetra caviar + crispy pork belly confit ($31) or Signature Super Crab Dip ($15); Chilled Plates, including a variety of hearty salads and poke bowls ($12-$16); “Seaside Classics” such as The Lobster Roll ($18) and Crazy Sexy Tuna ($21) with sesame-seared tuna + edamame; the tongue-in-cheek “These Carbs Don’t Count” selections include pasta dishes like the Cavatappi ($21), Pescatore ($23) and traditional Linguini Clam Sauce, white or red ($21). “Butcher Shop” is for the meat aficionados, from the 6-oz. Filet Mignon ($24) to the 32-oz. Porterhouse ($79); “Whole Fresh Fish” includes line-caught daily options served grilled or crispy; or, for a combination of flavors, try a Menage a Trois ($59) of filet mignon, crab stuffed shrimp + garlic shrimp; the Steak & Stinger ($59) with a 16-oz. ribeye steak + cluster snow crab; or the Key Party ($59), comprising one pound of large Florida stone crab claws and blackened snapper topped with crab + cracked conch.
One highlight is an up-to-date “Fish Scorecard” featuring the day’s fresh fish, oysters, clams, lobster and daily crab specials available at the help-yourself seafood bar. Oysters flown in from select coasts include the plump and briny Plymouth Rock from Massachusetts, Black Duck Salts from cold Canadian waters and the favorite Naked Cowboy and