Frank Palermo knows every facet of the seafood business. For 16 years, he was the head fish buyer for Pathmark supermarkets; he spent the next six years selling fish for NAFCO, the Maryland-based seafood distributor. In these positions he flew all over the world, seeing firsthand how fish are caught, farmed and processed. But his dream was to open an old-school fish market.
Claws is the fulfillment of that dream. For more than three decades, the freestanding building on the reedy banks of West Sayville's Green Creek was known as the Village Fish Market and run by Charlie Piffard. Subsequent owners had failed to make a go of the business, and it was vacant when Palermo and partner Chris Meyer took it over in early 2013.
At Pathmark, Palermo said, his principal concern was selling fish with a good profit margin. That meant a narrow range of species (farmed salmon, flounder, tilapia, shrimp) and little opportunity to buy the "top of the line." But his customers in Sayville have been open to the whole world of fish, he says, and his display cases are filled with local tile fish and thresher shark, red snapper from Panama, West Coast halibut, Florida grouper and blue marlin. "Now that they've tried opah, orange roughy and uku," he said, "my customers don't buy so much flounder anymore."
Claws sells a full line of prepared foods (almost everything on display is available cooked) that you can take out or eat under an umbrella on the patio. The patio also operates as a clam bar/crab shack with a full raw bar, steamers, mussels, lobsters and Maryland-style hard-shell crabs.
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