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Do you have to manage customers’ expectations about what type of seafood is available?

Being an Italian restaurant, people come in and ask why aren’t there mussels, and I guess mussels are pretty sustainable, but because of geographic proximity I’m much more likely to use Clammer Dave’s clams and oysters.

Clammer Dave is one of our treasures here, and he’s really begun to get a lot of recognition all up and down the East Coast.

We use vongole clams from him. They’re just steamed with a little white wine, butter, garlic, parsley and capers. We serve it with a little ciabatta.

Are your customers accepting of those limitations?

Some people want what they want, and they know it. Others see swordfish [overfished a decade ago] on the menu and ask if that’s okay. I think collectively everyone’s awareness of these issues is getting greater.

What are some local fish you like to use?

Triggerfish. It eats a lot of crustaceans, so it honestly tastes like scallop, crab or shrimp. In the winter we’ll pan-sear that with some lentils, maybe house-cured pancetta and spinach.

We also use wreckfish, which is a family member of grouper, and if you clean the bloodlines you can’t tell the difference. For a while it was incredibly overfished, but now it’s come back and it’s something you see on a lot of different menus here.

We pan-sear that with local tomatoes, okra, corn, butter beans, potatoes and a simple basil pesto.

What do you do when suppliers tell you one thing about how the fisheries are doing and the regulators tell you something else?

The supplier might say, ‘What do you mean? We see all kinds of grouper and snapper out there,’ but obviously they’re not doing all the tests. We listen to what NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association] and everyone else states. Even though fishermen are out there every day, you kind of have to listen to what the scientists are saying.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary