The City of Longport has only three commercial properties. So when one business leaves, what replaces it is important to the entire community.
Traditionally, restaurants have filled that space, with Italian concepts trying to make a go of it recently. When the property became available this time, Chef Joseph Tucker knew his idea would please everyone.
The plan for Catch, a seasonal restaurant, was hatched.
“I showed them the concept. They believed in it, I believed in it and they just opened their arms to it,” Tucker says, adding he was pleasantly surprised by all the local support. “I couldn’t ask for a better town.”
The big seller?
“The Oh my God salad,” Tucker and his brother, Robert Liccio, who helps run the restaurant say in unison. “The best salad in town,” Tucker says.
Listed on the menu as the OMG grilled romaine salad, it is a half head of grilled romaine lettuce with sauteed jumbo shrimp and crabmeat served with a house-made Caesar dressing ($25).
Tucker has strong ties to the South Jersey area. His family has been coming to Margate City for more than 20 years. Tucker also owns Joe Pesce in Collingswood. And his brother Johnny Liccio owns Johnny’s Cafe & Bar in Margate.
Tucker says he didn’t intend to open another shore restaurant, but he couldn’t help it.
“I’m doing it because I believe in the shore, I love the shore, and I love cooking fish,” he says.
Tucker believes if you do right by your customers, when you lock your doors in September, you’ll be able to come back again for the next season.
While both restaurants serve seafood, Joe Pesce has a more Italian flavor, with chicken and veal dishes, and fish often is served whole.
At Catch, the fish are all filets, although the menu also offers short ribs, filet mignon, sliders, and burgers.
The new, custom-built oyster bar display has shucked oysters from the East Coast ($2.50 per piece) and West Coast ($3.50 per piece), along with middle neck clams ($2 per piece) and an assortment of sauces including house-made cocktail, hot, and mignonette.
Oyster shooters ($6 per piece), made with vodka and spicy bloody Mary mix are available, along with a classic shrimp cocktail ($4), a crabmeat cocktail ($5 per ounce), and assorted ceviche (market price), which is raw fish marinated in citrus juices and chili peppers. Maine lobster also is available ($17 half, $32 whole).
Appetizers include plenty of seafood offerings such as Angels on Horseback ($12), oysters wrapped with bacon and served with a remoulade sauce; lobster mac and cheese ($16) made with Maine lobster and fresh mozzarella, Romano, and Gruyere cheeses; seafood sausage ($15), house-stuffed with white fish, scallops and rock shrimp; and grilled octopus ($14), with red onion, fennel, capers and glazed with Pernod, an anise-flavored liquor.
For the meat eaters in your party, there are herb-crusted baby lamb chops ($14) and stuffed Kobe beef burgers ($12) with caramelized onion and blue cheese.
The catch at Catch changes frequently.
“Every day, every day, every day,” Tucker says.
Golden tile, black bass from the Carolinas, ahi tuna, bronzino, Scottish farm-raised salmon and others are available as they come into the market.
Cooking preparations include Ventnor, with black olives, capers, onions and fresh tomato sauce; Margate, with caper butter and Meyer lemon; Longport, with baby arugula, olives, extra virgin olive oil and cherry tomatoes; Premier, with an herb crust and truffle cream; the A.C., blackened with Sambuca sauce; and the simply prepared Lucy, with olive oil and lemon.
Other seafood specialties include spaghetti and clams with crab ($25), open-faced seafood ravioli ($26) and a seafood stew ($28) that includes clams, mussels, squid, scallops and the catch of the day in a tomato broth with toasted Italian bread.
Sides ($6 each) include creamed corn and bacon, sauteed spinach, white beans and wild mushrooms, and crispy Brussels sprouts.
Diners who visited the address before would not recognize it after some major renovations.
Large, round, silver-rimmed mirrors on the wall give the impression of peering through a porthole. Poured stained concrete floors, concrete table tops and bars, and plenty of white with a splash of orange and sea blue give the space what Tucker calls a “Miami vibe,” cool and upscale casual.
The bar is a real plus. The wine list has whites, reds and sparklers from around the globe. Italy, France, Argentina, New Zealand and several regions of California figure prominently on the list.
The beer menu includes craft beers such as Abita Purple Haze, Allagash White and Brooklyn Summer Ale.
Martinis are prominent on Catch’s bar menu. The toasted blonde martini is made with Mailbu rum, vanilla vodka, triple sec and a splash of pineapple juice. A watermelon martini features Van Gogh infusion watermelon vodka and fresh watermelon.
Champagne cocktails include a Kir Royale with raspberry flavored Chambord and a Champagne popsicle, which is champagne poured over a frozen strawberry popsicle.
Several nonalcoholic mocktails are on offer, including a not-so-sangria, mango no-jito and a smooth navel.
Seating outside the restaurant includes sofas and four-tops, “for sitting, eating or having a drink,” Liccio says.
“Come and enjoy it, the best food in town,” Tucker says.