This Cozy NYC Fishing Town is a Seafood Mecca || Food/Groups
Welcome to the Bronx! I know, not what you expected, right? Looks like the suburbs. That’s ‘cause it kinda is – – even though this is technically a part of New York City, we’re worlds away. This is City Island. It’s a one-and-a-half mile island off the coast of the Bronx proper, and even though it’s technically part of New York City, it’s remained basically untouched as the rest of the city has exploded around it. Today we’re here to meet up with Michael Proietti. He’s a born-and-raised City Islander, and a professional chef. He’s going to show us one of his favorite seafood spots, where we’re going to chow down and talk about the island’s deep maritime traditions. -So right now, we’re at the Morris Yacht & Beach Club. -And this is right at the southern tip of the island, right? -This is the end, yeah. We call it “the end.” Born and raised, my parents lived here for ever. You know, I moved away from home… it was three blocks. You know I’m an Italian, youngest Italian boy, I’m supposed to live at home for the rest of my life. I just never left City Island, ‘cause it’s just a great spot. -A lot of people in New York don’t even know that City Island exists. -Yeah, I try not to tell them too much, because we don’t want everyone to come here, right? Like, so…. It kind of has a New England vibe. You have all the seafood restaurants, you kind of have like, the salty dogs working on the boat. It’s kind of perfect. It’s like being on vacation every day. We call ourselves “clam-diggers.” If you’re born on City Island, you’re a clam-digger. -Okay -If you move to City Island, you’re a “mussel-sucker”. -So I’m a mu— well, I haven’t even moved here, so what am I? -You’re just some schmoe. You’re some guy who wants to eat shrimp. -Cool, let’s go do that! -I’m down! -Really feels like a small town here, which is totally unfamiliar because it’s technically in New York City. -Well, it is a small town. It’s a mile and a half long. Everybody knows each other. You can’t throw a brick without somebody calling your mother. -Right. -When you’re a kid, you can’t do something without [someone] calling your mom. -How many bricks did you throw? -A couple. -You’re a successful chef, but you also spend your time in what amounts to a small seaside town. -You know, growing up in City Island, hanging out at the beach, we used to get the mussels off the beach, the clams, we used to go home and make these huge feasts. And I think that’s really where my love of food kinda started. -What is this? -So we got lobster, you got your mussels, your clams, calamari. You got some scallops. Underneath all this buttery, garlicky, oreganata-y kinda stuff is pasta. -Grab yourself a tail there, man. -No it’s a whole half a lobster, or a whole WHOLE lobster! Here, look, I’ll lobster you first. -You lobster me. -How good is that lobster, though? -It’s delicious. -Come on. -This is so good. -And it’s not chewy, they’re really fresh lobsters. You can taste it in the lobster, it has, almost, like a sweetness to it. -I assume there’s a lot of fresh seafood that moves in and out of City Island, is that right? -Uh-huh, absolutely. It’s kind of the bread and butter of the community. -We have a very special drink, can you tell us what, exactly, you ordered me? -It’s a Henny colada! -A Henny colada?! -Right, so you’re in the Bronx! Hennessey is where it’s at, and City Island, you’re on vacation, this is your mini “day-cation”, right? So piña colada, Hennessey, it seems kinda… it works together. A marriage made on City Island. -So it’s sort of like, this like intersection of a bunch of different cultures, because you have like the sort of New England-y seafaring vibe, and then right across the bridge you have the Bronx, the proper Bronx. -And really, what a lot of these menus do, is they really embrace the seafood culture. So they’ll do it blackened, or Cajun style, Italian style, or they’ll put like a Spanish seasoning, like an adobo on it. So it really does kinda bring all of the Bronx together, and I think that’s what’s perfect about City Island. -You’ve cooked in a lot of different places, what’s the difference [here]? Different vibe? -You know there’s definitely a different vibe on City Island, right? You can’t yell at everybody like you can do when you work in Manhattan. Really, it’s more of a sense of community here, so you’ve gotta be a little nicer. People are always welcoming other people here. Because it really is about family, having a good time, and sometimes you don’t know who your family is yet. -So we had our seafood feast, we said goodbye to Michael. But no trip to City Island would be complete without having a local drink where the locals drink: The Snug. Let’s go do it. -I kinda grew up in this place, The Snug is like my family’s business. We actually got the building about 20 years ago, and that’s when we opened up the diner. So growing up here, I was very lucky to have that, like, very present community feel. -We’re drinking Dark & Stormys, they make ‘em kinda strong here at The Snug. This one’s got a kick to it. -They drink it like crazy. Still one of the big nautical things around here is the sailors have Wednesday night races, so Wednesday nights will be packed in here. And they’ll all come up and we just immediately run out of Goslings. Like, immediately run out of Goslings. Ginger beer will not be in supply. I mean we are an island, and it’s a local bar, so we’re not quite as sophisticated as Manhattan yet So, it’s very much like, a Bud Light/Jameson kinda place. I think one special thing about City Island is that it is very much a part of New York, right? So besides the street signs, like a lot of the people that live here are from New York, born and raised in the Bronx, work in the Bronx, work in the city, a lot of middle-class city workers and stuff. So you get that very pronounced identity. Food & drink establishments on City Island, Local places like The Snug, like the [City Island] Diner, like the [City Island] Lobster House, that really give the community a place to speak, and a place to interact with each other. -It’s welcoming in a way that many other places are not. So I totally get why people come here and stay here. -When we get new people on the weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays, we love welcoming them, and saying, you know, “Thank you so much for coming to our community, it’s been very nice meeting you, and… here’s a Dark & Stormy.” -Here’s a Dark & Stormy. [Laughs] Cheers dude. -Cheers brother. -Thanks for having us. -You got it.