Michael Cigliano, his sister and four brothers plan to open a larger Santa Monica Seafood on February 16. Uncles Gerald Cigliano and Jack Deluca started Santa Monica Seafood on Santa Monica Pier in 1939. The family business has been located on Colorado Boulevard since 1969. By combining the space from a nail salon and Carl’s Jr., Santa Monica Seafood will add greater variety, a market-driven cafe and that more of that increasingly rare commodity: parking.
The Ciglianos hired Shook Kelley design firm to build the new store around the family’s history. The family immigrated from Ischia, Italy (on the Amalfi coast) at the turn of the century. During a January 23 walk-through, Michael Cigliano described the space as a “rustic Italian storehouse.” The front is smooth-coat, with Douglas-fir trim, blue awnings and aluminum fish gates.
The back of the building is lined with corrugated metal, to maintain the sense that it’s “still direct to the source,” said Michael Cigliano. “We don’t buy from other wholesalers…The fact that we have a market is because we have distribution behind us.” Santa Monica Seafood provides seafood to restaurants and hotels as far ranging as Las Vegas, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Mammoth, Palm Springs and San Diego.
Inside, the 60-foot, U-shaped showcase is the centerpiece, with marble countertops. Behind the case, employees will scale, gut and butterfly whole fish. Shelves stock 25 kinds of imported cheese, artisan imports including oils, pestos, and sauces. You’ll also find fresh-cut flowers and wine. A Dungeness crab pot chandelier features halogen lights.
The café has enough room for 36 people, indoors and on the sidewalk patio. There are two points of sale, where you’ll receive a number. Runners will deliver your food to the table.
The oyster bar is designed to resemble a fishing boat, featuring 5 types of oysters rotated seasonally. A mural depicts the Italian seaside off the Amalfi coast. You’ll also find drop down “jellyfish” lights.
Boards advertise 70 varieties of seafood in the case. The board changes with selection. To start, expect listings like Tasmanian ocean trout, New Zealand snapper, whole loup de mer, sturgeon fillet, jumbo sea scallops and Pacific rockfish fillet. Michael Cigliano said the seafood selection can change daily, but year-round offerings consist of salmon, tuna, swordfish, Dungeness crab, live scallops and whitefish. He said Maine lobsters and spiny lobsters can’t live in the same tank because they Maine crustaceans require warmer water.
Executive Chef , previously at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, most recently served as Gordon Ramsay’s sous chef on “Hell’s Kitchen.” Michael Cigliano said to expect “seafood prepared in the Italian way,” simple seasoned with ingredients like garlic and olive oil. He said, “We wanted seafood to be the focus, like you’d find on the Amalfi Coast.” Expect Hamachi Crudo with radish, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil; Grilled Shrimp Panzanella Salad; Steamed Mussels with garlic, white wine, parsley and tomatoes; and Pan Roasted Farm Raised Striped Bass. Santa Monica Seafood will also offer low-key Caviar Service, available by the ounce on ice with blini, crème fraîche, parsley, red onion and hard boiled eggs.
According to Michael Cigliano, grab-and-go deli selections will include roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, octopus salad, grilled asparagus with Mandarin oranges, and seared albacore with peppercorns.
Whether wholesale, retail or grab-and-go, Santa Monica is committed to the environment and sustainability, and near the back entrance of the new market, you’ll find that commitment in writing. Here’s a snippet: “Seafood is our only business and we intend to be around for generations to come by serving not only the freshest and healthful seafood, but by actively identifying, rewarding and encouraging the more environmentally sustainable fisheries, individual fishermen and farmers with our and your business.”