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INTERVIEW: THE DAILY CATCH! Simple Italian dishes done right!

Spend a few minutes outside either of the Daily Catch’s two locations and you’ll quickly see that it’s a neighborhood staple. Sit down, and have a meal, and you’ll realize why the Daily Catch has won big by sticking to their roots, serving up Sicilian pasta and seafood dishes done to simple, authentic perfection.

Tucked in the heart of Boston’s Hanover Street, The Daily Catch has been one of the city’s most popular areas for over 45 years. Established by Paul Freddura in 1973 with a second location on Harvard Street, The Daily Catch is THE go to food destination not only for the locals but also the hundreds of thousands of tourists that stroll down Hanover every year.

My first time at The Daily Catch was back in the early 2000’s when a couple of my friends worked at the restaurant part-time. It became our go to spot when we were hanging in the North End. That’s how I met Theo Freddura one of seven sons in the Freddura family. Theo has been working for the family business pretty much his whole life so he knows the all the ins and outs of the restaurant business. – He’s also managed some dope restaurants like Bottega Louie, Umami Burger and Fig Restaurant during his time in Los Angeles. I linked with Theo recently and we hung out at his two Boston restaurant locations to discuss the family business. He even took me to their seafood processing and food production facility to see where the process starts from the moment the seafood comes off the boat.

How did The Daily Catch restaurant come about?

The Daily Catch was started by our father Paul Freddura in 1973 as a fresh fish market that specialized in “Calamari” in the North End of ‘Little Italy’ in Boston. During the 70’s fried clams was the go to fried fish dish in the city of Boston and fried calamari was nowhere to be seen outside of the Sicilian household. Calamari was readily available at the docks and my father found an interest in this underutilized species of fish. He started to showcase traditional Sicilian methods of cooking Calamari on Hanover Street in a shoebox sized restaurant/fish market in the spring of 1973. The menu was simple and the fish was always fresh. The recipes were prepared by our Nonna Filomena who migrated from Siracusa, Sicily in the 1930’s. Fried Calamari, Stuffed Calamari, Calamari Meatballs & Calamari Salad was the original menu offerings. My father met my Mother Maria Lombardo in the late 70’s while she was attending college in the city. They instantly fell in love with each other, the restaurant business and a shared appreciation for Calamari. Momma Maria was born and raised in a large family of 10 with the family business being a large Restaurant/Banquet Hall in Troy, NY owned and operated my her father Dominic Lombardo. She was no stranger to the hard work, hustle and bustle of the restaurant industry. They would start to promote the Calamari offerings up and down the east coast at festival and feasts selling the freshest, tastiest, and most succulent morsels of Calamari ever tasted by man. As the popularity of Calamari grew, so did the Daily Catch restaurant. With word of mouth our restaurant became the go to destination for fresh fish & calamari in Boston. As the restaurant grew so did the menu. Fresh squid ink pasta and traditional Sicilian seafood dishes were added to the menu. Fresh local fish and shellfish from the New England Atlantic waters were perfectly paired with simple yet delicious Sicilian recipes full of the flavors of garlic, olive oil, wine and herbs. Simple and succulent seafood.

You have a big family. Have all your brothers worked at the restaurant at some point?

We are a family of seven sons. We are all active in the business together one way or the other. As the business continues to grow so do our roles with the company. We all started working in the business at a young age helping in the dish pit, busing tables, frying calamari, etc. As we started to get older we started to wait tables and/or cook, clean and cut the fish, make delivers, etc. We continue to work together and we are looking to expand the business and open up new locations that will allow us to continue to grow the company and create new roles that need filling and new problems that need solving.

You guys have another location in Vermont, right?

We opened our newest location in the town of Woodstock, Vermont in the fall of 2018. My mother always wanted to expand the business to a smaller country town she finally did. She enjoys the simplicity of the country life and wanted to offer fresh fish to the locals and tourists of the green mountains.

The line was literally out the door at both locations. Are the restaurants always this busy?

We are one of the busiest restaurants in the neighborhood. The line typically starts forming before we even open up! Our popularity is constantly growing and the word is always spreading so we stay busy around the clock. We are featured in mostly all of the travel guides and tour books/website about Boston restaurants and we always have a presence on the different food channels on cable TV.

How do you continue to keep the seats filled after all these years?

By sticking to our core values of fresh fish, simple ingredients and authentic recipes. It’s a family affair! Once you enjoy a meal in our “Kitchen” you become part of the Famiglia! Not much has changed in the restaurant. I tell customers that the only thing that changes is the prices, and those are going to keep going up! We still purchase or seafood from the same families that we have always dealt with in the past. It all starts with the fish!

I love how your cook, Jimmy, had 5 pastas working at one time. You mentioned he has been with you guys for over 35 years. How does a Vietnamese immigrant end up cooking Sicilian seafood in Boston?

Jimmy is the perfect example of the “American Dream”. Jimmy started with our family in the early 1980’s when he arrived to Boston as a refugee from the Vietnam War. Jimmy arrived with his wife, daughter and two hands. Jimmy’s family business in Vietnam was Shrimping so he was very familiar with seafood and how to handle it properly. Jimmy started as a squid cleaner at our processing facility. Once he learned English, he became a cook and learned the family recipes from my father and uncle Anthony. Ever since then he has been manning the kitchen alone. Some customers only come in when Jimmy’s working. He has an international cult following!

Tell me about some of the dishes I had today.

Monkfish is considered the poor mans lobster. It has a similar texture to Lobster tail. The inspiration for this dish was Veal Marsala, which was the first dish my mother made for my father when they started dating. The texture is soft and firm with a mild flavor. Simmered in a sweet Marsala wine with the essence of figs, raisins and prunes. Finished with a hint of butter and a squirt of lemon. Classic North End style.

The Black Pasta is our house made specialty. We traditionally prepare it in a Puttanesca Sauce, and Alfredo Sauce, or the most popular the Aglio Olio Sauce. Agilo Olio is a mixture of ground calamari, chopped garlic, imported olive oil, Romano cheese and parsley. Simple yet full of flavor!

The Lobster Fra Diavolo is the ultimate seafood feast! It typically serves two but is great to share. A mixture of Mussels, Shrimp, Littleneck Clams, Calamari & a Lobster simmered in a spicy Fra Diavolo Seafood Tomato sauce. Served over a bed of linguine. Mangia!!

Clams Casino is Rhode Island Cherrystone clams that we shuck, stuff and bake with our homemade Casino butter. Light, crispy and full of fresh clam flavor. I can eat hundreds of these! We like to “taste the clam not the ham” so we prepare these with no Bacon.
Stuffed Calamari is a classic Sicilian dish. We clean and separate the tentacles from the tube of the squid. We then prepare our homemade stuffing, which consists of herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, cheese, pine nuts and raisins. The squid tubes are then light toasted in breading and deep-fried. We then simmer the squid in our homemade seafood tomato sauce before serving with a Romano and parsley sprinkles. This recipe is as Sicilian as it can get!

Boston has changed a lot over the last 10 years. How would you say it has affected the restaurant business in the area?

Boston has definitely changed over the past decade. The city is growing and so is the restaurant scene. With that growth comes competition for customers and good employees. It’s harder to find a prime location to expand the business. It’s a gift and a curse. As long as we stay true to our values of serving fresh fish with our original recipes we should be just fine. Thankfully we have a large family where us brothers can fill the positions as needed.

How do you keep a fresh supply of seafood?

For the most part we are dealing with the same fisherman & fish purveyors that we have been doing business with for the past 30+ years. We have a fish processing plant in Boston’s historic fish pier where we clean, cut and portion the fish before it is sent to the restaurants. We take good care of the fish because the fish takes good care of us!

What dish do regulars like the most?

The regulars for the most part order clam linguine with white clam sauce or broiled haddock with a light garlic breadcrumb topping. But it all depends on the person. Fried calamari is everybody’s favorite. Some love our Black Pasta Aglio Olio and that’s all they order. A couple guys only order our Pan Seared Swordfish in a Sun-dried tomato basil sauce. It all depends.

Do you have products you sell to markets or other restaurants?

We started our wholesale and prepared food products business; Calamari Fisheries, back up about two years ago. We sell cleaned and cut squid, unclean squid and prepared squid products such as Calamari Salad, Calamari Meatballs, & Stuffed Calamari. We also prepare Octopus Salad, Baccala Salad & Scungilli (Conch) Salad. In the works are prepared butters; Casino butter, Scampi butter, and so much more!

What’s the future for The Daily Catch?

We plan on expanding the restaurant into new neighborhoods in the greater Boston area. With a family with Seven Sons it’s only right we have seven restaurants. We would like to share our authentic Sicilian recipes with as many people as possible. We are also looking to expand our wholesale business into new markets throughout the United States. A new website and new merchandise is also on the horizon. Stay up to date on all the Daily Catch advancements by following us @thedailycatch on Instagram.

Will the Celtics win this year?

Maybe next year. Lol. Let’s go Bruins!!! Hopefully the B’s can pull it off. The Red Sox can make it happen if they continue to get better and the patriots are always ready to win another Super Bowl!

Photo courtesy of The Daily Catch

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