Franky Atallah and Johnny Nalbandian opened Franky & Johnny’s Fisherman’s Seafood Outlet on September 25 in Elysian Valley, promising Angelenos a “seafood value revolution.”
Nalbandian was born in Passaic, New Jersey, and has since gained a reputation for being a “well-seasoned salt-rubbed seafood monger.” His grandfather was a freshwater fisherman in Armenia, and Nalbandian started fishing at age 11. He founded J&J Seafood Company in 1974 and built it into “the Tiffany of the seafood industry.” He disbanded the company in 2002 and became a consultant, advising import-export companies. Three years ago, he decided to return to seafood. “90% of people who leave the seafood industry come back,” says Nalbandian. “It’s the saltwater in our veins.”
Franky Atallah’s family has been supplying European, Latin, Mediterranean and natural foods to grocery stores for over 30 years.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Elysian Valley, it’s over the hill from Echo Park and a short walk from Dodger Stadium. For 30 years, the Riverside Drive lot housed an abandoned gas station. Nalbandian and Atallah saw promise and decided to transform it into a seafood market, a process that Nalbandian described as unprecedented and “history making.”
Nalbandian welcomes any and all charity events to the shaded wooden patio. He anticipates fundraisers for organizations like City of Hope and Autism International, with plenty of barbecued seafood.
Nalbandian respects a company like Costco, which “does a great job with seafood, but they’re limited.” Costco features 50 SKUs [Stock Keeping Units].
Franky & Johnny’s fish has no preservatives. Instead, Nalbandian opted to invest in a Cryovac machine. Since the bags of fish are vacuum-sealed, they carry an extra three days of shelf life. The selection shifts with the seasons, but Nalbandian is currently especially excited about Catalina swordfish ($13.40/lb), Canadian Ling Cod, San Diego Yellowtail and Mexican Sea Bass from the Sea of Cortez ($13.40/lb), known in Spanish as baquetta.
A 5-pound bag of Carlsbad Aquafarm oysters (Lunas or Blondes) sells for $20. It’s $15 for an equal weight of Carlsbad Aquafarm mussels. You’ll also find a 5-pound bag of East Coast cherrystone clams for $15.
The freezers contain rarely seen products like tobiko, frog legs, seaweed salad, Mozambique shrimp – “a very sweet cold water shrimp,” and Monterey sardines. “Three quarters of this stuff, you can’t find anywhere else,” claims Nalbandian.