Sunday, June 24, 2018

An Abundant Life - A Great Catch

I wrote about Tutta Pesca last fall, after I had discovered it one day when I was walking by and noticed their sign on the sidewalk. As I wrote at that time, when I started to walk in the door I was greeted by a very friendly and charming young man who turned out to be Mike Cara, Jr., and after sharing with me about the wonderful history his family has in the fish purveyor and shipping industry and showing me around the lovely restaurant they had built in a Hoboken townhouse, he invited me to come to dinner the following day and gave me one of the freshest pieces of halibut I've ever had to bring home. I met his father, Mike Cara, Sr., when I arrived for dinner the following evening, and after welcoming me in his wonderfully kind and friendly way he sat me down for one of the most amazingly fresh seafood dinners I'd had in years and then his daughter Nicole sent me home with several warm hugs and a bottle of rosemary flavored Cara Bella, their very special organic extra virgin olive oil that is available in a variety of flavors. I stopped by again after I posted the blog, to say hello and make sure that they saw it, and took home one of the most delicious lobster bisques I've ever had. I went back at Christmas because I love to make the traditional seven fish, and Mike, Jr. helped me pick out such a beautiful variety that it was a true pleasure to go through the courses, making each one differently. Sometimes when I make seven fish I go the easier route of a bouillabaisse which is something that I also love, but the fish that Mike, Jr. chose for me that day was so fresh that I wanted to taste each one individually. If you're getting the idea that this is an excellent and lovely family owned business that welcomes guests and customers as if they were part of the family, you're getting a taste of what Tutta Pesca is about.

When I saw that they had been voted one of Open Table's Ten Best Restaurants in the New York Area, I stopped by to say congratulations and saw Mike, Sr. getting ready to go on his way home. He turned right back around and ordered a beautiful salmon and broccoli rabe dinner with creamy mashed potatoes for me, taking time to arrange it so that I could bring it home. I returned for dinner on Tuesday, and though I was expecting to have a lovely time and a delicious meal, I wasn't expecting that it would be even lovelier than it was before. But this is the way of the Cara family - where others might think to leave a good thing as it is, they are always trying and succeeding in making everything better. There were some new faces in the staff, but also some familiar ones, a testament to the beautiful environment and the professional excellence of the business model that creates a work environment where excellence is appreciated and encouraged which in turn translates to a dining experience that is first rate. Over the course of the evening I heard the wait staff sharing information about the menu, each time as if it was new and exciting, something that is difficult to do unless the information you're sharing is true and you truly believe it is. I tried the Octopus that I'd had my first time there, a specialty of the house and a wonderful theme in the design touches, and it was even better than before, the quality of the fish and the preparation being the key to the enjoyment of this delicious and ingenious dish. A new menu item that I tried was the whole fish - they have a variety of daily catches and I asked Mike, Sr. to choose for me, and his choice of red snapper was outstanding. Stuffed with fresh thyme, parsley and lemon and served with tender asparagus and fingerling potatoes, I found myself using the beautiful fresh bread from Choc-O-Pain to scoop up the last drops as I savored every bite. Mike, Sr. added their fresh rosemary flavored organic extra virgin olive oil Cara Bella to it, and the combination of that added to the already delicious flavors was perfection.

As I've written before, I grew up spending summers in Rhode Island, and over the years I've realized that I am a seafood snob. If it isn't as fresh off the boat as the fish at Tutta Pesca, it's hard for me to enjoy it. I've gotten used to having lesser versions, and I've also been eating less fish, but a meal at Tutta Pesca brings me right back to the ocean, and to all of the wonderful places where I've had wonderful seaside meals over the years. It's also reminiscent of some of the wonderful places in Boston where my parents used to take us for special occasions - Ye Olde Union Oyster House and Legal Seafood, and Catch of the Day, a restaurant in Boston's North End where I went on a first date with my first high school love. But Tutta Pesca has its own feeling, thanks to the beautiful design and craftsmanship that is a signature of the Cara family, and the food is even better than some of my old favorite haunts because of the absolute simple freshness and lightness of the cuisine. As much as I loved some of the restaurants of my youth, there was alot of breading and frying going on. I loved it then, and still like to nibble a bit from time to time, but I've also gotten to know that really delicious fresh fish needs nothing more than a touch of butter, some olive oil, lemon and salt. They do a bit more at Tutta Pesca, which is what makes it so special, but not so much that the fish is overpowered. And that 's because they know what they're doing and because it's so fresh. Even the tomato broth of the Zuppa di Pesce compliments without covering, rich with olive oil and garlic it brings out the unique taste of each type of fish and takes their flavors into its own.

Tutta Pesca does not serve alcohol, but they will gladly open any wine or beer for you and serve it in style. I'd brought a bottle of sparking wine because the day was warm and I was in the mood for a celebration, and it was perfectly kept for me in a lovely ice bucket and my glass filled with the attention that makes the difference between good service and great. My selection complimented the meal perfectly, straight down to the lovely ending of the signature cheese cake made by Aunt Barb. I love coffee but am always careful not to have it too late in the day, and the offer of decaf Americano was a delightful addition.

As I looked out over the the golden afternoon light from my seat by the window in the coolness of the beautiful interior, I was reminded of another wonderful meal I'd had years ago in a small town in Holland. I had been visiting some friends who lived in Naarden just outside of Amsterdam, and they had just had a baby so at times they could not take me sightseeing. I took a walk by the canal of their lovely town and wandered into a boutique shopping area, finding a lovely restaurant near a shop that was filled with beautiful and tranquilly peaceful design. I ordered their catch of the day with a glass of champagne and found myself feeling so completely blessed that I have never forgotten those moments. At Tutta Pesca I can find that feeling any day, right on Third Street in Hoboken.

Tutta Pesca
Restaurant & Fresh Fish Market
155 Third Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

The Family's Signature
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cara Bella
Served With Fresh Choc*O*Pain Bread

Tender And Delicious Mediterranean Octopus
Served With Spinach And Cannellini Beans

Whole Red Snapper
Stuffed With Thyme, Parsley And Lemon
Served With Tender Fresh Asparagus

Mike Cara, Sr., Adds An Extra Touch
Of The Family Specialty Cara Bella Olive Oil

A Perfect Cafe Americano
Available Regular Or Decaffeinated

Served With The Very Special House Delicacy
Aunt Barb's Cheesecake

The Comfortable Luxury
Of Tutta Pesca At Home


Jannie Susan

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