Beach Haven Fishery’s Catch of the Day: Alligator

Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

For a little over 20 years, the Beach Haven Fishery in Spray Beach has been regularly visited by a special squawking, winged guest. Commodore, the name the staff has assigned to the North American herring gull, drops in on the restaurant each day around lunchtime to receive his scheduled snack. He waits out back expectantly, receives his morsel of fresh fish and either flies off or assumes his roof roost. Dubbed the fishery’s “quality assurance” guy, Commodore samples the very best every summer – but has he tried the alligator tacos?

Among classic LBI seafood dishes such as fresh scallops, clam strips and crab cakes, the alligator bites and alligator tacos are items on the Beach Haven Fishery menu that would stop any patrons in their tracks.

“People don’t think it’s actually alligator. It’s the tail of the alligator,” said Jude Perrotti, one of the owners of the restaurant.

About five years ago, the restaurant ordered the alligator tail from Louisiana and added the new appetizer special onto its chalkboard menu. Conjuring images of scaly, textured, ferocious reptiles in my head, I was expecting a tough, chewy consistency when I bit into the dish. However, breaded and drizzled with a chunky garlic lime sauce, the alligator bites are tender, tangy and juicy, resembling the flavor and texture of a piece of pork.

“It’s popular. People like the alligator here,” said Perrotti when asked what the reception had been like for this Southern delicacy. Perhaps that’s why Beach Haven Fishery incorporated alligator into its expansive taco selection.

The fishery’s tacos have a base of fresh arugula, veggies and a homemade avocado, basil and lime sauce that gives the tacos a creamy, citrusy taste. From breaded scallops, shrimp and flounder, to ahi tuna, blackened California rockfish and now alligator, the restaurant boasts a diverse and delicious lineup of seafood-filled tortillas.

Perrotti owns the fishery with his father, John. Together, they started the restaurant back in 1989 and will celebrate their 30th year in business next season. On their team are Perrotti’s cousin Pat Perrotti, and Johnson and Wales University graduate Michael Nilio, the fishery’s chef. The team collaborates and experiments with new specials, determined to shake things up while providing the very best in quality.

“We have all wild fish; we don’t have any farm raised. We source from the best wild places there are, whether local or not,” said Perrotti, who prides himself on the care and quality that the restaurant delivers.

Farm-raised fish are bred and raised in pens that are submerged in bodies of water. Since fish grown in captivity are more likely to contract diseases, they are also treated with antibiotics. Though farm-raised fish are cheaper and more convenient than wild-caught, Perrotti is not willing to sacrifice freshness for price. “However it costs, we bill the dish up to that. We don’t say we’re gonna make a sandwich for $10. We buy the best ingredients, we make it, and then we price it at the end. That’s what makes the difference: Quality comes first.”

The Perrottis are so serious about their food, in fact, that they’ve sidestepped away from the “server” aspect of the restaurant industry. Instead, they’ve streamlined operations so that patrons can order, eat and go.

Through the front entrance, guests walk into a small foyer, where a few feet ahead, the ordering counter is positioned. Customers order, pay, wait for their name to be called, grab their food and find a booth inside or a table out. Such a simplified system is something of a rarity in LBI’s fine-dining sphere.

“We don’t have a waitstaff. We’re just serious about the seafood,” said Perrotti.

Perhaps this is what drew Commodore to the Beach Haven Fishery in the first place: fresh wild-caught fish, great, fast service and the Perrottis’ dedication to treating their patrons like family.

For more information about Beach Haven Fishery, visit beachhavenfishery.com.

— Sarah Hodgson

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.