SOUTHINGTON – Rows of fresh cod, salmon, tilapia, clams, shrimp and over a dozen other varieties of fish sit in a case at Close Harbour Seafood, just feet away from diners on the other side of the wall.
“Everything that goes to the market comes in that day,” said Lisa Onofri, co-owner of the combined seafood market-restaurant with her brother Rick Close.
The siblings took over the restaurant a few years ago from their father Bill Close and his wife.
“They can order off our menu, if they see something in the market we can cook it in our restaurant,” Onofri said.
A popular dish is the shrimp scampi entree, which chef Dave DiBiase makes in a thick butter sauce topped with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers and a squeeze of lemon.
“It’s definitely one of our best dishes,” he said. “It’s basically the way the sauce comes out, a lot of sauces are just a lemon-lime sauce but we like to think of ours as a thick, buttery sauce.”
Shrimp is the most customer-requested ingredient both on the menu and in the market, according to Onofri.
“In a week we probably do 10 cases, maybe 15 cases, and there’s 20 pounds to a case,” she said of the shrimp demand. “At Christmas time it’s like four times that amount.”
Onofri said no matter what time of year, the shrimp cocktail is always highly requested.
This time of year, a variety of fish are in season and easier to obtain including halibut and flat fish.
Onofri said sometimes clam beds are shut down due to the water being too warm. This past winter, lobster wasn’t as readily available as it had been in past years. Government regulations concerning fishing can also impact the market selection.
While the market has always been an integral part of the restaurant, a fire in 2015 forced a rebuild and separated the dining area.
Onofri said a bar was also added along with a patio area for a more private dining experience.
“Before it was kind of intermingled,” she said. “It’s definitely turned into a little bit more of a restaurant experience.”
Despite interior changes, classic menu items like the Pancetta Crusted Cod have stayed put.
“It can’t move, it just can’t go, it’s always on the menu,” she said.
The dish consists of pancetta crusted Atlantic cod, sautéed spinach and sherry cannelloni bean puree drizzled with truffle oil.
“People come in and they eat and they go over (to the market) and buy their dinner for the next night,” Onofri said. “People are looking for healthy options and fish is always a good choice.”
More information can be found at https://closeharbourseafood.com/