Evelyn’s Drive-In is a Rhody tourist destination. And why wouldn’t it be? Everything from the legendary clam cakes to the satisfying “crunch” the parking lot clam shells make as they break beneath your tires screams summer fun. This year, the Tiverton hotspot turns 50, and owners Jane and Domenic Bitto want to reflect on half a century of food, history, and community.
The couple acquired Evelyn’s (fondly known as Eve’s to the owners) after Domenic accidentally happened upon the clam shack. Originally from Massachusetts, Domenic was driving in Rhode Island and took the wrong exit to Tiverton. On a whim, he pulled into the drive-in and overheard one of the waitresses talking about how the restaurant was up for sale. And although Domenic and Jane had no formal restaurant training, the two decided to buy the place. “Dom’s parents were in the pizza business, and they encouraged us to purchase a restaurant,” says Jane. Domenic’s parents were as Jane describes them “old world,” and wanted for their children a marriage, kids of their own, and a business. For Jane and Domenic, Evelyn’s was a start.
Thirty-two years later, the business is still up and running, a testament, Jane explains, to the recipes handed down from Evelyn (the original owner) herself. “We do our damnedest to put out awesome quality” Jane asserts. The establishment uses fresh products sourced directly from New England waters (Maine and Massachusetts) and the cooks are sure to change the frying oil every day. Ask the owners what the secret is to their fluffy clam cakes, and you’ll learn it’s not-so-secret. The concoction is a simple mix of high quality chopped clams, Drum Rock Fritter and Clam cake mix, and hot water. Mix them all together and fry at 325 degrees and you have it.
Her staff too, are a part of the lifeblood that keeps Evelyn’s going.
They’ve become a family – quite literally. Jane remarks that if you’re from Tiverton, you’ve probably worked at her place. Many of the waitresses working at the East Bay institution have children and grandchildren who work in the back of house as well. Even the Bittos’ children have worked at the restaurant for a stint.
The couple truly love the work that they do, and it shows when they interact with their customers. “So many people I meet have had grandparents, parents, family members, etc. that have had an experience at Evelyn’s that has become a fond memory”, says Jane. If business keeps going strong, who knows? Maybe the eatery will be around for 50 more years.
Evelyn’s Drive-In | 2335 Main Road, Tiverton, RI • 401-624-3100