Mystic Meat and Seafood Market Arrives in Little Egg Harbor

Owner-Chef Passion, Seven Days a Week
By MARIA SCANDALE | May 04, 2018
Photo by: Maria Scandale NEW IN TOWN: The choices come in fresh daily: as the sign says, ‘you can’t fake fresh.’ Special orders can arrive for tomorrow’s dinner. Seafood and meat selections will expand as the busy season approaches.

Mystic Meat and Seafood Market is new to Mystic Island and has a growing following by bringing a service that wasn’t there before. “Exactly what this town needed,” said one reviewer.

“Only the highest quality meats, freshest seafood and the largest subs you will ever have,” the owners sum up on their Facebook page, where pictures of the products are the best advertisement.

They’ve got a growing following by filling a gap. Owner Phil Tretola has his own anecdote about how the market opening transpired.

Formerly an executive chef for 30 years, he was making dinner for his brother last year and found out he didn’t have any grated cheese. His choices didn’t do his homemade spread justice.

“Unfortunately I had to get processed cheese, and a year later my brother still makes fun of me; he’ll send me a random text and say the name of the processed cheese that I got.

“I sat down with my wife that same night and said, ‘This is what this area needs. We’ll provide something great for the community – because, why should our community go elsewhere to buy a hand-cut steak, have a butcher in the area, a whole seafood market and a full provisions delicatessen? Why should we put the money in other communities when we could have it in our own backyard?’”

Partner in the market is Tom Soffel, Tretola’s uncle, who grew up working in his dad’s very successful luncheonette in Long Branch. Soffel is retired from the tent business and now lends his restaurant experience.

As the market at 100 East Anchor Drive was ramping up for the accelerated season, Tretola took time to outline the highlights.

“The fish gets delivered seven days. I cut them whole. Nothing’s frozen,” he said. “We have full butcher service, so I cut all the steaks to order.”

And the delicious homemade salads, including the mozzarella, are all made in-house. Fresh soup is made daily.

They work with Conte’s Pasta Co. outside Vineland to get the fresh pasta made for them, and “the bread gets delivered daily.”

The seafood case held an assortment of super-fresh fish: swordfish steaks, Ahi prime tuna, monkfish, Pacific coast salmon, swai and tilapia. There were Gulf shrimp, house-made lump crab cakes and more.

On the wall menu board is a list of two dozen fish species and 20 shellfish varieties – what isn’t in the case that day can be ordered to arrive in 24 hours – trout, red snapper, bronzini and orange roughy name a few.

The regional species are sourced from “a lot of local purveyors,” Tretola said. “The shellfish comes from local distributors out of Waretown. The scallops are Barnegat Light scallops. They come fresh daily. They use day boats; the term day boat simply means that they were caught that day. So, these scallops were caught the night before and delivered to me the next day. You’re simply not going to get a fresher product.”

He added, “I really like to use the local purveyors when it comes to any local things that we can catch here, such as the scallops, the clams, the oysters.

“But the good thing about a store like this is that you can order anything you want and it’s a 24-hour turnaround. So if someone wanted, for instance, mako filets 2 inches thick, 8 inches long – they’ll have it in 24 hours.

“It’s the same thing with the meat, as well. If they wanted Kansas City steaks, if they wanted tomahawks, or they wanted bone-in filet mignon, they can get that simply by putting in their order a day ahead.”

Butchering knowledge and skill came from both training in culinary school and years in the restaurant business.

It’s a lot of work, and his wife, Renee, a local real estate agent, is also behind the business. “She gave me the OK to open it up, let’s put it that way,” Tretola said, referring to his seven-days-a-week commitment.

“I’m here at 6 or 6:30 every morning cutting fish, cutting steaks, cutting meat and getting salads ready. And it’s a seven-day-a-week operation, but I love what I do. This is a passion.”

It’s always nice to know a little more about your local business owner. Tretola was born and raised in Bloomfield but lived for 22 years in the Toms River-Brick area. He played semi-pro baseball from age 17 to 21 – he was drafted by the Montreal Expos for the rookie league, playing in Florida.

His chosen career of the culinary industry won out. He had been tending bar and involved in restaurants since age 15. The Art Institute of Philadelphia Culinary School degree led to positions in restaurants all over the East Coast. Asked what his favorites were, first to mind came Molly Maguire’s in Clark and Yankee Clipper in Florida.

“They’re all favorites because I learned a little bit of everything from each one,” he decided.

No wonder the Mystic Meat and Seafood Market menu also has a selection of pork, sausage, chicken, veal, and even game meats by request. Order a whole pig to roast. Or try alligator, ostrich or bison, for instance.

Besides premium cold cuts, they come together to make trademark subs. “I think I make the biggest sub in New Jersey – it’s a 20-inch whole sub with roughly 2 pounds of each meat on the sub.”

The large sub feeds a family of four, at $14.99 plus tax. A half sub will feed two people and starts at $7.99.

“I think this was much needed in this area,” Tretola summed up. “I live here, too, and I wanted to give everyone more of a choice than just a supermarket or a large chain. A lot of other communities have this; we didn’t. And now we are providing it.”

The spot at 100 East Anchor Drive intersects with Radio Road. The phone number is 609-879-6419. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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