Here's where I met a client for lunch yesterday:
Note the Xed-out eye. Yes, that fish is pining for the fjords.
By most criteria, "The Dead Fish" would be considered a very bad name indeed for a restaurant, or almost anything else. But every so often a contrary approach works, thanks to chutzpah, charm, and storytelling skill.
Here, from the menu, is Chef Andrea Froncillo's "Dead Fish Story":
When I was a boy growing up in Italy, I loved to watch my Nonna (grandma) work in the kitchen. The catch of the day—be it calamari, crab or a variety of fresh fish—was magic in Nonna's able hands.
Now my Nonna was a little Italian grandma with a big Italian heart. Friends, neighbors, even the local fishermen all knew, if you made your way to Nonna's when you smelled that wonderful fish cooking, you'd be welcome to a plate.
With so many people clamoring for her cooking, Nonna couldn't be bothered with small details. She never followed a recipe—she just stirred and sampled. And she never remembered the names of the fish she used!!
Whenever I would ask, "Nonna, what kind of fish is this?" she would shrug her shoulders and smile—"IT'S A DEAD FISH!!" Everyone laughed and had a great time.
The menu doesn't stop with a good story. It carries out the theme with category names: Drink-Like-A-Fish Cocktails (which include Crabby Mood Martini and Fish Breath Mint Julep), Recently Demised Fish of the Day, and Other Dead Things (prime rib, short rib, lamb, and filet mignon; the illustration here is of a dead cow, hooves in the air).
The restaurant's phone number is 510-787-DEAD.
Did I mention this is a waterfront restaurant, in the tiny San Pablo Bay town of Crockett?*
The view, needless to say, is killer.
And if you don't want a cocktail, I can suggest the perfect wine pairing.
* Crockett is that increasingly rare thing, especially in California: a company town. For more than a century, the company has been C&H Sugar, which happens to be my client. The refinery is still active, and still a major landmark. Once upon a time, C&H used to advertise on TV; here are 10 of those old commercials. I love that jingle!