AL SCOMA – owner of world famous San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant
Albert (Al) Joseph Scoma, owner of Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, died Saturday, June 2, 2007 of natural causes.
Al Scoma founded, and operated one of world’s most famous restaurants and one of the nation’s highest grossing independent restaurants for more than forty years. He was also a part owner in Scoma’s Restaurant in Sausalito, CA.
Al Scoma was a leading figure on Fisherman’s Wharf, dedicated to supporting the fishing community. He was deeply embedded in the San Francisco community, committed to charitable support for Bay Area police and fire departments and the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in North Beach, Al Scoma’s favorite charity. He’s also been a member of the Olympic Club for over 50 years.
In 1965 when brothers Al and Joe Scoma heard about a small coffee shop on the Wharf that was for sale, little did they know they were on the road to creating a San Francisco landmark. The brothers bought the tiny, six-stool coffee shop on Pier 47 that served local fishermen breakfast and burgers and began the long and ultimately successful process of turning the hidden local hang-out into one of the nation’s highest grossing independent restaurants.
Born in Oakland, CA, Al Scoma grew up in San Francisco’s North Beach. He always believed in working hard, enjoying life and being the best in the business. He attributed his success as a restaurateur to the variety of career paths he took before his restaurant days, including his first job, selling newspapers and flowers as a child in North Beach.
Al’s professional career began after his release from the Navy following World War II. He worked for a San Francisco Bay Area meat company where he learned about food handling and excelled in sales. He continually worked to meet the needs of restaurant operators while surpassing state health and quality standards. In the early 1950s he began a five year stint as an inspector with the San Francisco Health Department, giving him an opportunity to work with and learn more about restaurants and bars.
His restaurant operating experience began in the late 1950s as one of the six original partners in Castagnola's Restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. Switching careers, the 1960s found Al Scoma as the top auto salesman in the country at a San Francisco Pontiac dealership where he ultimately became manager. During his very successful car dealership experience he discovered the importance of customer service and satisfaction.
With his 1965 return to the restaurant business, Al Scoma found an outlet for all the business lessons he had learned. Using their mother’s recipe collection, the Scoma brothers’ humble café became so popular that it is now the highest volume independent restaurant in California. The six stool counter has grown to a 320-seat restaurant, serving more than 450,000 locals and visitors annually. Scoma’s owns its own fishing boat and fish receiving station, which permits public viewing of wild salmon and local Dungeness crab as it’s off-loaded from boats and prepared for the kitchen. Al operated the restaurant independently since 1970. Al has “hosted” millions of guests over the years; the photos in the restaurant tell a story of the famous that have enjoyed Scoma’s for so many years.
In January 2005, Newsweek Magazine recognized Scoma’s for having one of the best clam chowder recipes in the country (Jan. 10, 2005). In 2002, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously named the road leading to Scoma’s “Al Scoma Way” and in mid-2005, Scoma’s celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Under Al Scoma’s guidance, the restaurant has been actively involved with organizations such as the Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association, Fisherman's Wharf Advisory Board, Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, California Restaurant Association, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau and City College of San Francisco's Culinary Arts & Hospitality Advisory Board. Al Scoma was member of the board of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club for many years and honored in the 1980s as man of the year. He is an honorary member of the Calamari Club.
Recognized in May 2007 for his continued commitment to small and independent business, he received honors from the California State Senate, and the San Francisco Small Business Network.
Scoma’s continues to be recognized for its efforts to protect the environment, winning several awards annually for recycling and waste reduction. He has instilled a commitment to sustainability and to a goal of minimizing impact on the planet in all of his employees.
Al Scoma’s philosophies earned him the respect of many, but his greatest achievements include the loyalty of his staff and of his guests for over forty years. He loved horse racing and was the owner of many successful racehorses. He enjoyed golf, his second home in Palm Springs, CA, and he was a faithful San Francisco 49er and San Francisco Giants fan. His greatest love was that of his family and his friends. Mr. Scoma is survived by his wife Cheryl, three daughters, two grandsons, his sons in law, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A rosary will be at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in North Beach on Tuesday, June 5 at 7pm, and a funeral mass will follow on Wednesday, June 6 at 11am. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in memory of Al be made to his favorite charities, the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ Club in North Beach 415-397-3068 and the Saint Anne’s Home/Little Sisters of the Poor, San Francisco 415-781-6510.