Ode to Jersey Fisherman

Photography By Craig Polignano | May 01, 2018
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A charcoal illustration by Chef Craig Polignano, which hangs in the dining room of daPesca.
A charcoal illustration by Chef Craig Polignano, which hangs in the dining room of daPesca.

You know it’s a new day in the restaurant world when ship captains are revered by name on the upstairs fine-dining menu.

DaPesca opened earlier this year in Morristown, a redefinition of the fine-dining concept at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen. The ever-changing menu zeroes in on seafood, specifically the local catch, including tuna, fluke, skate, oysters and clams, all from the Jersey Coast. (And yes, dear carnivores, meat options also exist.)

Alongside the description of the dish is a shout-out to the captain of the fishing vessel, celebrating the likes of Dan Mears Jr, captain of Monica, and Pete Dolan, captain of Ms Manya.

“My whole thing from Day One was to feature Jersey products,” says Chris Cannon, a New York restaurateur who opened Jockey Hollow in 2014 after spending $5.5 million to renovate the historic 1 9 1 7 landmark. “But I realized one of the best products that jersey has is seafood.”

And, notes Cannon, it's about time to give praise where it's due. ‘‘In Boston, all the Ash is coming in from Jersey Jersey gets no credit for it.”

Cannon knows from seafood. He spent his childhood summers in Greece, spearfishing. He caught his first octopus at age 8 - just ask and he'll tell you a terrific story about that adventure.

As to restaurants, his first New York restaurant job was at Gloucester House, a high-priced New York fixture, tony but austere, a restaurant that emphasized classic New England favorites, lobster and clam chowder; for a Park Avenue clientele. A year out of Brown University, Cannon was already chef. His most famous New York restaurant job was at Marea, a fine-dining seafood restaurant facing Central Park, where Cannon was partner That restaurant opened during the recession but defied those odds, winning numerous culinary awards along the way

“Fish itself is elegant,” says Craig Polignano, executive chef at Jockey Hollow. Polignano is equally excited about the new concept for the upstairs space. “Fish allows a chef to be more refined with his cooking ability and technique.”

Polignano keeps a quote in the kitchen from Eric Ripert, chef at Le Bernadin, one of the world's top seafood restaurants. Ripert considers the poissonier—the fish cook—the most elegant, sexy position in the kitchen.

“Your gestures must be gentle and precise because that is the nature of the product you are working with,” says Ripert.

Both Cannon and Polignano are fans of all seafood, but Polignano admits an affinity for local skate.“Fresh skate is unmatched to me.” Cannon, meanwhile, favors scallops crudo, sliced thin, with a little bit of good sea salt. And maybe lemon.

"I’m Greek. I put lemon on everything.”—T.P

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
110 South St., Morristown

Article from Edible Jersey at http://ediblejersey.ediblecommunities.com/eat/ode-jersey-fisherman
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