Marine Fisheries, 521 Middle Neck Rd.,Great Neck, 516-487-3145
I've never seen a walk-in refrigerator as abjectly empty as the one at Marine Fisheries. One bin contains fish heads set aside for a customer who intended to make fish stock; there is a tray containing a chunk of swordfish destined to be cut into steaks. On a high shelf, a bowl of seaweed salad awaits placement in a prepared-food case. And that's about it.
The rest of the fish - a couple of dozen varieties - is out front in the store's display cases. Co-owner Charlie Fravola expects it will be sold by the end of the day. Tomorrow's fish will be purchased in the predawn hours, during Fravola's daily visit to the Fulton Fish Market. "I want to run out of everything every day," he says. "That's the way I run my business."
Fravola came to Marine Fisheries in 1980, the year after it was founded by his partner, Billy Rousseas. Both men are disciples of the late, legendary fishmonger Teddy Guadalupe, longtime owner of Hollis Fisheries in Queens. "Teddy used to take me to the fish market," Fravola recalls. "'Which swordfish would you pick?' he'd ask me. Teddy was the toughest guy to sell to - the wholesalers still talk about Teddy."
Fravola and Rousseas (whose father was also a fishmonger) learned lessons well. In fact, it's hard for them to articulate exactly what distinguishes a super-fresh fish from a fairly fresh one; they just know.
Fresh fish never goes out of style, but Marine Fisheries has adapted to changing times. The store sells a large selection of prepared dishes (halibut salad is a favorite) and has welcomed Great Neck's growing, and fish-loving, Persian community, among whom whitefish is popular. "We've all learned to speak a little Farsi," Fravola says. "And these," he indicates a couple of dozen silvery whole whitefish, "are mahi safid."