by Carmel L. Mooney
Rarely on a road trip do you find a restaurant so outstanding in quality and vision that you plan future family road trips just for the pleasure of enjoying it again and again.
Such is the case with Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, California where Phil DiGirolamo has been creating and serving truly outstanding, award-winning food with genuine hospitality and passion for about twenty-five years. This little gem between Santa Cruz and the Monterey Peninsula has been blessed to strike the perfect balance between providing exceptional, top-quality seafood while being a good stewards of the environment.
Upon entering you’ll know you are on to something fabulously different. If the aromas and packed tables brimming with locals and tourists don’t pique your interest, then sit down and stay awhile because on your first bite you will be sold – hook, line, and sinker; no pun intended.
Just looking around, your heart will be warmed by not just the local couples and families who bring Phil their repeat business and gratitude for such a wonderful eatery, but also by Phil’s staff, many of whom have been there since the beginning decades ago.
Phil’s Fish Market has grown and changed over the years but the ambiance is still warm, inviting, casual, fun, and welcoming.
Phil suggested a bottle of Talbott Logan Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Mountains (for mom and dad) and it set the stage for everything to follow. Perfect choice.
We started with some oyster sliders, fresh and delicious, and moved right on to the Diablo Shrimp a bar appetizer with diablo sauce to die for. The sauce was so outstanding that we savored every drop with a soup spoon. You will want to soak up some bread with this one.
The Caesar salad chock full of succulent, juicy, fresh crab meat was a treat. We love artichokes and of course, you have to have them when you are in the artichoke center of the world. But fire-roasted, marinated, and charbroiled, served with aioli sauce – it was over-the-top delicious.
Phil’s’ Halibut Marsala was pure delight. Rich, flavorful, and sautéed with marsala wine, it was lovely.
Another specialty that was nearly the pinnacle of the evening was the Rock Shrimp & Sea Scallops Linguini. Served with fresh Roma tomatoes, green and black olives, and tender artichoke hearts, it was hearty, filling, and flavorful. It would have been the best part of the meal if we hadn’t decided to delight in Phil’s award-winning Cioppino.
Phil’s Cioppino has not only won prestigious awards, but it’s also offered in Phil’s Prepared Product Line, and it’s been featured and won on the Food Network. I’ve been making Cioppino for forty years and Phil’s is the best I have ever had. It’s no wonder, folks, from around the world order his Cioppino time and time again.
Phils’ Cioppino has such a following that if you are in the area, you can bring in your pot, and Phil will fill it up with his heavenly specialty. He also offers Cioppino in a pot, ready to go fresh or frozen.
While Phil offers an array of gourmet desserts ranging from cannoli to tiramisu, carrot cake, and even biscotti, we were thrilled to try the moist, homemade strawberry shortcake topped with fresh strawberries straight from the local fields. Fresh, fresh, fresh, from beginning to end. It simply cannot get any better than that.
Although it would be criminal to not savor the best seafood around, Phil does offer numerous vegetarian dishes. He offers weekly specials, indoor and outdoor heated seating, and is even wheelchair accessible.
Phil offers an ingenious line of some of his best-loved products: soup bases, pasta sauces, Cioppino, and more, all offered by UPS two day delivery and packed and shipped in such a way that Phil’s fans and newbies can experience the incomparable quality Phil offers on the property, but now in the comfort of their own homes. What a perfect holiday or birthday gift! I can only hope someone sends me some of Phil’s specialties one day.
Behind the scenes, Phil has an extraordinary processing plant and shipping facility too.
Phil has a great kids’ menu. He offers fish and chips, linguini, shrimp and chips, chicken nuggets, and fettuccine among numerous other delicious kid favorites.
What’s more, Phil is a sweet-spirited, kind, and genuine man who has a real heart for his community, staff, and patrons. The love shines through in the food.
It’s a magical, family-friendly, roadside eatery with a great heart. Plan a visit and go hungry; you’ll be back!
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Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Road Trips for Couples