The ink has barely dried on the lease agreement signed by Water2Table owners Joe and Andi Conte, but their planned North Beach restaurant already has people excited. Coming this spring to 515 Columbus Ave. is Seven Fishes, a part fish market, part seafood restaurant. The name, a reference to the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of serving a feast of seven fishes, is a nod to Joe Conte’s Italian-American heritage, which fits in quite nicely with the neighborhood. The restaurant will be a casual lunch spot and fish market during the day, serving sandwiches, salads and pizzas at a reasonable price at the restaurant and selling fresh fish, prepared vegetables and sides and wine on the market side. There’s no chef yet, but the Contes are searching for someone who can execute traditional Italian and Mediterranean dishes well. “I’m looking less for creating something that hasn’t been done before and more for someone who can execute a lot of the classics perfectly,” Joe told Eater. His wife Andi, a certified sommelier, will be in charge of the beer and wine list.
The Conte’s company has been providing local seafood to 180 no-big-deal city restaurants like Lazy Bear, SPQR, Saison, Liholiho Yacht Club and more for five years now, and the business model is based around bringing catches straight from fisherman to the restaurants, cutting out receivers, distributors and wholesalers that can delay the process by several days. “The restaurant will have the best of the best as far as seafood is concerned. I can tell people the boat name the fish was caught on and exactly where,” Joe said. “I have a mobile receiving truck and we drive up and down the coast and pick up fish from the fishermen in their home ports. So that’s the kind of fish that will be arriving in the restaurant the next day.” The restaurant and market will have majority local seafood, though that will go down in the winter when local supply lags. It will also feature hard-to-find fish. “There are a lot of unique products along the coast that are not necessarily targeted, but are maybe bycatch. No one’s really targeting local octopus, but they happen to go into a spot prawn trap,” Joe explained. That means the menu will change daily based on what’s available.
As for the space itself, it will seat 50 and trend toward a “homey” vibe, according to Joe. “I really don't want it to be slick and shiny and conceptual. It’s going to be more along the lines of what a place would look like along a beach city in Italy that a family is putting together,” he said. “I see it less like some of the more traditional, older-school Italian restaurants in the neighborhood and more along the lines of a Tosca; that type of clientele where it’ll serve a lot of people in the neighborhood, but on the weekends it’ll also be a destination location for a lot of people in the city.” Expect Seven Fishes to arrive by late spring, pending all goes according to the timeline.