Bristol Bay fisherman-restaurateur buys catch back from processor to sell in Monterey eatery

Jul 21, 2017

Sam Mercurio skippers the f/v Quick Silver, a Bristol Bay drift boat fishing for Alaska General Seafoods. He is also part-owner of a Italian seafood restaurant in Monterey, California called Domenico’s On the Wharf.

Bristol Bay Salmon sold at Domenico's on the Wharf in Monterey.

Veteran fisherman, Sam Mercurio, is wrapping up a productive fishing season in the Egegik district, and now plans to head back down south to his restaurant, Domenico's On the Wharf, which specializes in the same wild caught Alaskan salmon he catches.

KDLG's Nick Ciolino has the story:

Mercurio has fished in Bristol Bay for 39 years, and has co-owned Domenico’s for eleven years. After each fishing season, he buys thousands of pounds of salmon from AGS to be sold in his restaurant—salmon he helped supply to the processor as a fisherman.

“It’s wild and natural, and it’s ours; it’s mine, you know what I mean,” said Mercurio on taking ownership of the wild caught product. “I buy direct from Alaska General Seafoods. They put up a pack for me all filleted and vacuum packed, and we ship them to Seattle from Naknek, and they ship them to the restaurant when I need them.”

Domenico’s has been owned and operated by the Mercurio family since 1981. Sam Mercurio and his wife bought the restaurant from an uncle in 2006. Domenico’s is a reputable mainstay on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey—and even played host to Bernie Sanders, who stopped in for a campaign dinner last year—but Mercurio’s family has an even longer history fishing in Bristol Bay.

Sam Mercurio picking fish in Egegik.

“My uncles and my father have been fishing here since the sailboats just got out—60 years in the business. Now they’re all passed away, but my dad and my uncles are the first guys to go independent here in Bristol Bay,” said Mercurio.

Before purchasing the restaurant, Mercurio fished full time as a Bristol Bay drifter in the summer and a California squid seiner in the winter. Now he just fishes the Bay and runs the restaurant. “I used to be a fulltime fisherman, but I got burned out,” said Mercurio.

The menu at Demonico’s includes several items from Alaskan fisheries, like king crab and halibut, but Bristol Bay sockeye is spotlighted, and is prepared a few different ways. The specialty entre is sockeye broiled on a cedar plank with a lemon-honey glaze painted on. Also, blackened sockeye is available served in a salad at lunch.

Wild caught Alaska salmon is also served at Domenico’s as part of a classic fish and chips dish, with a tempura beer batter. “We’ve got it down pat, and it’s a hot seller right now. I serve it with a little coleslaw and french-fries,” said Mercurio.

As the fishing begins to slow in the Egegik district, Mercurio, alongside many others, is pulling the net in for the last time this season and putting the boat up for the winter. He plans to head back down south and begin work at Domenico’s next Monday.

Contact KDLG fisheries reporter Nick Ciolino at fish@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281