We refer to it as fish or shellfish, but to the Italians it’s frutta di mare—fruits of the sea. These gems take center stage at the newly opened La Pescheria on Fifth Avenue South, the latest venture from Molto Trattoria’s Neri family.
“La Pescheria literally means ‘seafood market,’” says co-owner Francesca Neri. “These markets frequently double as restaurants in Italy, and they always feature displays of the day’s fresh seafood on ice. It’s a different way of eating, and one that puts the customer in control.”
At La Pescheria, guests choose their fish and the method of preparation: simply grilled, baked in a sea salt crust, or stewed with potatoes, black olives, and cherry tomatoes. No butter or cream is used and everything is cooked to order, so dining is a leisurely affair. When ready, your fish is deboned at the table. Francesca’s brother Andrea is in the kitchen, working alongside the Basilicata-born chef.
The restaurant prides itself on bringing some little-known Italian dishes to America. Notable examples include branzino meatballs in marinara sauce, gnocchi with Sicilian red prawns, and platters of crudo (thinly sliced raw fish dressed with breadcrumbs and extra virgin olive oil). “We have a large concentration of Europeans in Naples, along with many well-traveled Americans,” says Francesca. “They appreciate our efforts to deliver a different taste to their palates.”