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Andrew Zimmern on an Ocean-Friendly Chef

Esca Dave Pasternack

Photo by Kelly Campbell

This cozy, Italian seafood restaurant is the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, along with lifelong fisherman-turned-chef Dave Pasternack at the helm.

Locale: Esca, 402 West 43rd St.

The Gist: This cozy, Italian seafood restaurant is the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, along with lifelong fisherman-turned-chef Dave Pasternack at the helm. With just 60 seats (with about 40 more on the patio during the summer), Esca takes an artisan approach to seafood, with a mix of familiar and unusual fish on the menu.

The Philosophy: Esca isn’t billed as a sustainable seafood restaurant, and its size helps Pasternack keep sourcing in check. He never needs a lot of any one kind of fish, which allows him to bypass the megasuppliers and work with the folks actually doing the reeling.

The Sources: Name a fish, and Pasternack’s got a guy for it. He’s got his crab guy, Tommy, one of the last of the Long Island crabmen. Alf is his diver scallop guy. His most interesting fish guy? Frank, an Eskimo who lives in the small Cook Inlet fishing camp of Tyonek, Alaska—hours away from the nearest town. Frank keeps Esca swimming in king salmon.  

The Must-Eat: If you skip the crudo—simple preparations of fresh, raw fish—you've missed the essence of Esca. Try the black bass, a sweet and fatty East Coast fish, with pine nuts, finished with coarse sea salt, olive oil and lemon. One bite will have you wishing you’d opted for the two-flight crudo tasting.

This article has been adapted from the original, which appeared in the April 2010 issue of Sky.

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