Business Notes

Octopus’s Garden Traditions Now Carried on By Schmid Family

By MARIA SCANDALE | Feb 01, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Michael Trapani enjoys a birthday celebration with his wife, Gretchen, and his parents, Paul and Marge Trapani.

The family greeting patrons at Octopus’s Garden is now the Schmid family, which also owns The Dutchman’s on Cedar Bonnet Island.

The restaurant at 771 South Main St. (Route 9) in Mayetta continues the traditions that made Octopus’s Garden successful, namely seafood done skillfully by the same chef as before, in a classy yet casual setting.

And it gains enhancements such as several meat entrees that patrons said they would welcome, along with the services of Spice Catering for parties and special occasions.

Later this spring, the 100-seat dining space will open for lunch, as well.

The transition among owners who already knew each other was seamless. The timing was right: The Dutchman’s is closed to embark on an extensive renovation, and former Octopus’s Garden owners Peter and Christine Russo were ready to change their course, the new owners said.

“We’re very excited to keep a family-built and owned-and-operated restaurant in another family,” said Rick Schmid, “because we felt very close with the Russo family and we feel as though their traditions were very parallel to our family traditions of running The Dutchman’s. We’re very honored to be able to operate the Octopus’s Garden and continue with the legacy of the restaurant and make them proud.

“Peter and Christine built a beautiful place and ran a wonderful business; we admired it ever since it opened,” said Schmid. “Now it’s a wonderful addition to the Schmid family restaurants.”

Operating Manager Bob Schmid said some patrons didn’t notice right away that a change of hands took place last October, and that’s good. He explained why.

“We’re not changing the menu; we’re enhancing the menu,” he said. “This is known as a fish house; that’s the way it was created. We added steaks, pork chops and some meat items, but the basic menu is going to stay the same. The biggest response that I’ve gotten from the clientele that comes here is, ‘Oh, wow, you didn’t change anything!’

“There are people who come and go and didn’t realize it until they’d say, ‘Who are you?’” he said with a smile.

“We have the same kitchen, the same wait staff, the same chef: Rodolfo Vasquez. He has been with Peter for 20 years. He meets our every expectation, and he’s actually expanding his horizons with some of the new items we’re introducing on the menu, but he knows how to cook a piece of fish.”

Dinner clientele comes from all over the surrounding mainland, as well as those making the short hop off Long Beach Island. Lobster Nights on Thursday and Friday are just one big draw, and that was another definite “keeper” when the Schmids assumed the helm.

By popular demand, they added to the menu Max’s Crispy Battered Lobster Tail, both delectable and for a near-and-dear cause. Proceeds from this appetizer, entree or entree addition on any night benefit the Maximilian Foundation, focused on drug education at the child and adolescent age level. (For more, see themaximilianfoundation.org.)

Other additions include a Cajun fried pork chop that is getting rave reviews, char-grilled prime New York strip steak and filet mignon. Fresh lump meat crab cakes are now on the menu every night, as is Roast Long Island Duck topped with a red wine cherry sauce.

“What we have tried to do was listen to the staff, the wait staff especially, to see what customers asked for that was not on the menu previously,” Bob Schmid said.

The seafood menu also lists macadamia crusted Alaskan cod, panko crusted sea bass, sesame seared tuna, miso glazed salmon, blackened Arctic char, pan-seared barramundi and several others.

“The seafood all comes in fresh, it doesn’t come in frozen, and we get deliveries all week long,” he remarked.

“Everything is farm-to-table fresh, from the vegetables to the fresh fish from the sea. That’s our goal.”

Seven seafood selections are on the nine-choice early bird menu Wednesday through Friday for those seated from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The vegetarian and vegan page on the menu is attractive. Consider the choice of enticing broths on the vegetables and penne pasta dish: tomato basil, garlic rosemary, tempura, wasabi tempura, sesame or chardonnay dijon.

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The new owners/operators of Octopus’s Garden want to welcome their loyal customer base from The Dutchman’s as well as new customers of all ages. The restaurant is kid-friendly; that’s part of what “family” is about.

“We welcome your family to come meet our family,” Rick Schmid invited.

“We’d like to welcome our younger guests as well as our full family guests,” he added. “We would like to be not only your special place to go out to eat, but also your home away from home.”

Accommodating casual dining as well as special occasions means patrons are welcome to come in and enjoy a relaxed soup and salad and dessert, the operators said. Feeling comfortable mixing, for example, a French onion soup and a Caesar salad with a side of calamari, is encouraged if that’s what hits the spot that night instead of a full meal.

Speaking of special occasions, Spice Catering, under the direction of chef and operating manager David Schmid, is available for custom catering and event planning. Birthday parties, weddings and wedding rehearsal dinners, baby showers, group luncheons, charity events and more are handled by a talented and knowledgeable staff.

“If you have the venue, we can cater your party through Spice Catering. Or if you have the idea, we can find a venue to hold your party,” Bob Schmid noted. “And sometimes Spice Catering will do an event here at the restaurant, on a day when the restaurant is closed, or during the day,” he added, pointing to cozy rooms off the main dining room that accommodate smaller parties.

The Spice Catering menu is soup-to-nuts featuring seafood, American and German cuisine. If you’re craving sauerbraten, Spice goulash or bratwurst, these specialties and more are on the catering menu while The Dutchman’s is under renovation.

“The other thing we do for these parties is we bring a full liquor license in. We have the ability to have a one-day license with advance notice,” the Schmids added.

The restaurant in general is BYOB (bring your own bottle), or customers can enjoy the Sharrott Winery selection in-house.

Custom homemade birthday cakes made and decorated on the premises are available at the restaurant or to go.

Contact Spice Catering at 609-494-8197 or email davidschmid.dutchmans@gmail.com.

The phone number for Octpus’s Garden is 609-597-8828. The website is theOctopussGardenFishHouse.com. The restaurant is open daily at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

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The Schmid family’s own area tradition reaches back to 1952, when the first restaurant was started by Otto and Thelka Schmid. The present Dutchman’s dates back to 1963, with several additions and expansions. It is currently closed in anticipation of a full renovation.

For those wondering about the continuing remodeling project of The Dutchman’s, they can stay abreast on the website thedutchmans.com, as it proceeds.

“We have not set an end date yet because of the very sensitive nature of the environment,” Rick Schmid said. “It’s not a normal type of construction project.”

He elaborated, “We’re very mindful of the environment and to the marine biology, and due to the environmental impact of the building being over the water, we have to be very sensitive of the time frame of touching anything that is in the water.

“Working with the environmental agencies, we have to do things in a timely account of the calendar year because we will be replacing the pilings. ... We don’t want to affect the spawning of the clam beds and the fish, so we’re moving along in a very environmentally conservative manner.”

Send business-related items to mariascandale@thesandpaper.net.

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