The cool blue, nautical-themed interior of Midtown Catch lured me in on a hot June afternoon. I walked past the bright red lobsters in tanks by the door and was welcomed by co-owner Mike Cioffi, who stood behind a display case filled with seafood. If I was to take the word of his regulars, I had just stepped into “the best fish store in Manhattan.” Mike and his fellow co-owner Joseph Polizzi have been the closest of friends for fifteen years. When they opened Midtown Catch in February 2016, they envisioned an honest, fairly priced, quality fish store that was “more of a family and less of a business.” Buying seafood solely from wild waters in Alaska, Florida, Iceland, and Greece, the store is committed to serving clean, preservative-free fish.
When I asked Mike if he knew as a child that he wanted to pursue a career in the fish business, he told me that he had made up his mind on the second day that he worked with his father, a fish wholesaler. “Why not the first day?” I quizzed. As it turns out, on his first day visiting a cheap fish market, Mike became ill in his uncle’s car. But ever since, he has learned how to sniff out the freshest fish in a catch – a skill that has served him well to date. Mike then shared with me that for seventeen years he had been working at Pisacane – a fish market that was on the Upper East Side – before making the leap to opening Midtown Catch.
Carrying three generations of fish business expertise, Mike said that he transitioned from the wholesale business to retail because he loves working personally with his customers. And they love him, too – residents in East Midtown crowd into the store after long work days to ask questions like, “I’ve got four guests coming over for dinner tomorrow – what fish do I serve them?” Many people come in to choose from the selection of prepared foods at the counter, including salmon cakes and various spreads. Mike hopes to give back to this supportive community during the holiday season with a convivial seafood and wine tasting evening. These customer relationships, he claimed, are what make his business “more honest” than most other fish stores. And, looking ahead, Mike and Joseph are contemplating opening a sit-down seafood restaurant in the neighborhood. In the meantime, the team continues to find their motivation in “knowing that everyone coming to the store is eating clean and healthy seafood, served by a family with care.”