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Artie Hoerning, owner of Artie’s South Shore Fish & Grill in Island Park, dies at 70

Artie Hoerning, owner of Artie's South Shore Fish

Artie Hoerning, owner of Artie's South Shore Fish & Grill in Island Park, puts a live lobster back in the tank at his restaurant in June 2009. Credit: Timothy Fadek

If it had to do with seafood, Artie Hoerning had mastered it.

The fisherman, fishmonger and owner of Artie’s South Shore Fish & Grill in Island Park, died unexpectedly at home on Monday at the age of 70.

For 33 years, Artie’s has been one of Long Island’s best fish markets. To say that it focuses on local fish is an understatement: its specialty has been fish hooked, netted or trapped by Hoerning — with assists from the community of Nassau County fishermen who regard the store as their informal clubhouse. In 1999, Hoerning opened an adjoining restaurant that, despite its extreme modesty (Styrofoam plates, plastic cups) is Nassau County’s most dependable source of fresh, local fish in season. For the last three years, it has been named one of Newsday’s Top 100 restaurants.

Hoerning was 6 years old when his family moved to the South Shore from Queens. “My father was a banker, but his first love was fishing,” he told Newsday in 1999. As a young man, he tried to follow his father’s path, carrying a briefcase during the week and a tackle box on the weekends. But one evening, after his train home had been canceled, he found himself on the LIRR platform with “people pushing and yelling,” he recalled. “They were like cattle. It made me sick.”

That commute turned him around, and Hoerning decided to make his favorite hobby into a business. He first worked for another fish market and then, in July 1974, opened Artie’s.

One of Hoerning’s most frequent fishing buddies was David Pasternack, chef-partner of Manhattan’s celebrated seafood restaurant Esca. Pasternack said Wednesday that the two men had been fishing together for almost 40 years (starting when the chef was a teenager) and that Hoerning had an unerring “knack” for catching fish. “He knew the bay, he kept records, he listened to the water,” he said. “And more than that, he was tenacious. He would not give up. ‘One more drift’ was his motto.”

Pasternack, who has access to the best fish in the world, could be found buying flounder at Artie’s. But, he said, the relationship was “first, last and always a friendship.”

Hoerning, who lived and docked his boat Smokey in East Rockaway, is survived by two daughters, Christina Hoerning of East Rockaway and Cara Lee Hoerning Filomio of Long Beach; son-in-law Christopher Filomio; grandchildren Melia and Kai Filomio, and scores of nieces and nephews, most of whom worked, at one time or another, at Artie’s. His wife, Christine Hoerning, died in 2014. The business will be closed through the weekend.

There will be a wake at Perry Funeral Home in Lynbrook on Thursday and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral, at St. Raymond’s Church in East Rockaway, will be at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

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