By Eileen Jackson
With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Morro Rock, Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant owners and long-time residents of Morro Bay, Bonnie and Mark Tognazzini, have been serving the “catch of the day” since 2004. “Catch of the day” truly means that the fish you eat today was likely swimming in the ocean that very morning. In fact, at Tognazzini’s, they often are able to tell you the name of the fishing vessel and its captain which brought ashore your meal. Located on the historic Embarcadero, this family-owned business has the accessibility of the ocean and offers an extensive selection of fresh fish from California’s beautiful Central Coast.
Owner and Captain, Mark Tognazzini has been a commercial fisherman on board his boat, the Bonnie Marietta, for nearly 45 years. He has spent his career navigating the waters of the Pacific. He knows and expects the best when it comes to local seafood. “His deep roots and connection with the commercial fishing industry enable Tognazzini’s Dockside to consistently have the freshest and most amazing seafood in the world!” says his son, Marc. He continues, “Our facilities enable us to receive and process seafood directly from local fisherman ensuring ultimate control and quality from the time of landing to the time our seafood hits the plate.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The Tognazzinis offer three distinctive dining locations right next to each other. They are a family-owned and operated business who also provides catering options to their clientele. “Being family-run gives us the distinct advantage of having someone onsite at almost all times that genuinely cares about the business” explains Marc, who is the General Manager and has been for many years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Marine Science from Cal Poly which has proven to be an added advantage and further depth of knowledge for their business. He believes that when you’re passionate about what you do, your customers and employees will recognize it. Passion truly is contagious when it comes to their employees - they view each and every one that works at the restaurants as part of their family.
In fact, Tognazzini’s prides itself on their very knowledgeable, friendly staff. Each team member is required to undergo in-depth menu training that includes plating, preparation and a deep understanding of seafood origins. To achieve this, the wait staff is tested on location, seasons, and the methods of all seafood items that Tognazzini uses. Although this type of training is paramount to Tognazzini’s success, Marc believes that his diverse menus for each of his restaurants are equally important. “Variations in menu items at each of our locations allows us to provide something for everyone,” Marc points out. “It also allows frequent customers more options and styles to choose from depending on what they are looking for that day.” From pull up bar style to sit down with table service to outdoor patio dining with live music, each restaurant has a different dining experience for their customers.
Of course, one constant is the local catch. The restaurants feature a diverse variety of fresh fish that you will not experience anywhere else. The dish that keeps people coming back is their oysters – they offer them a variety of ways and showcase them in all of their locations. One can get them fried, smoked, barbequed, raw, Rockefeller or casino. A fan favorite and the most requested is definitely the barbequed oysters. Their skilled chefs take the incredibly fresh Pacific oysters and grill them until the flesh is nice and plump. Next, they pop the top shell off and drizzle them with hot melted whipped garlic butter, and garnish them with fresh lemon and serve them steaming hot. Yum!
THE JORDANO’S CONNECTION
A family-owned business that offers such a high level of knowledge and customer service will certainly expect that same level of commitment when it comes to their foodservice provider - thus, the partnership between Tognazzini’s Dockside and Jordano’s. Account Executive, Jim Scoville, works with the Tognazzini and his kitchen personnel to ensure they have all the products required for their unique menu options. Marc explains, “If we ever need something, we pick up the phone and call Jim direct and he handles it personally. This service is what makes Jim and Jordano’s a good fit for us.”
Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant had the unique experience of appearing in a segment of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” this season (the episode aired on March 7th). Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern is known to travel around the world sampling its “most unique tastes”, and filming with restaurant owner, Mark Tognazzini, proved to be no different. Tognazzini and Zimmern took to the Bonnie Marietta to catch some fish before heading back to the restaurant and cooking it up. Chef Zimmern chowed down on Tognazzini’s “whole fried fish” and their “green fleshed lingcod”. Since the episode aired, both of these menu selections have had so much demand that they can’t keep enough on hand! The sincere interest coupled with a down-to-earth nature from Andrew Zimmern and his staff makes Marc beam, “The storyline that they developed traveling up the Central Coast painted a great picture of our area and really highlighted us and what we do here.”
TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
With the recent airing of “Bizarre Foods”, the notably “old school” family has found that social media has had a positive impact. For many years, they have had an email newsletter that notifies customers about local fishing and what fish they have available. It actually started as a phone list where they would call customers direct when Captain Mark and the Bonnie Marietta would be arriving with his catch. This year, daughter Leah Tognazzini, has created Twitter and Facebook accounts to keep the family business current and stay connected with their customers.
It’s easy to see that the knowledge, devotion, hard work and pride of the Tognazzini family shines through in all of their endeavors as they strive to provide an exceptional experience to each and every one of their customers.
To register for their newsletter or for more information about Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant, visit www.morrobaydockside.com.