Since that clam bar no longer exists, we have no idea what pedigree its chef(s) may have had. The only proposition the clam bar stands for, is that The Times has a very long history of giving two stars based on the food alone, to restaurants that lack the traditional trappings of fine dining. You don't like the clam bar? Fine. There are a hundred more.
You are using a clam bar in Bay Shore to support the argument that places like Torrisi with chefs from top tier kitchens strike out on their own doing fine dining food in a room that looks like an old school lunch place in little italy is a very traditional idea? Really? That's a logically sound argument to you?
In any event, the original Torrisi food didn't seem like fine dining to me at all. It was just rustic, hearty Italian food, of a sort readily available all over town with a lot less waiting time. A number of MF'ers had the same reaction, so I know I am not alone.
Even thought the food at Torrisi 1.0 was rustic, it was notably chefier than other "rustic Italian two-stars" - there's c-vapping and sous vide and a focus on provenance, for better or worse. You could make the argument that their multi-step process applied to a fancy turkey made no difference in terms of the end product, but when you combine that stuff with their Restaurant by