Since Paiche suddenly closed its doors in December, folks have been wondering what would happen to the space, which was a boon for the underserved neighborhood of Marina del Rey. Today we get the news that chef Jason Neroni and restaurateur Bill Chait are working together to open a seafood spot in the location called Catch and Release.
Neroni has been busy since leaving his post at Superba Snack Bar last June, opening a pizzeria in New York City and working on another project with Chait on Rose Avenue in Venice, which is projected to open in the spring. But he says the opportunity arose to take over the Paiche space and he couldn't turn it down.
"It's a surprise to me as well," Neroni says. "But the location is great — I live close to there and there are a lot of families around there, a lot of kids, and not many restaurants catering to them."
Catch and Release will be a seafood restaurant, inspired mainly by Neroni's family history in Portland, Maine. He stresses that he is not opening a strictly New England–style restaurant, "but the culture definitely starts there."
"When you come in, you're going to know this is my restaurant. I'm not keeping the menu to lobster rolls and fish and chips. You'll see a lot of California influence, seafood from Santa Barbara, lots of oysters from all over, West Coast and East."
Of course, there will be a lobster roll on the menu. Other menu items Neroni is working on include whelks with parsley garlic butter, chilled whole Dungeness crab with Green Goddess mayo, and octopus with Boston baked beans and clarified herb butter. He'll also be serving red snapper frankfurters, the bright red hot dogs many New England kids grew up eating.
When asked why so many New England–style seafood places are opening around town (Connie and Ted's, Littlefork, Fishing With Dynamite), Neroni responds, "All of those chefs, and me, we're all East Coast kids and we long for that taste of home. But I wanted to add a bit more of my own influence so it's not just the standard fare you expect. I gotta make it fun. What I want first and foremost is for it to be fun, where you can come in and sit down, have a beer, and feel like you're in a neighborhood spot."
To help with that aim, they are looking to brighten up the space somewhat. "Paiche was a little dark and cavernous," Neroni says. "We want to make it brighter, open it up."
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As with most Chait projects, Julian Cox will be in charge of the cocktail program, and there will also be a focus on wine, with smaller producers and — like much of what Neroni says he's planning for the restaurant — "not as much of what you'd expect."
Catch and Release is slated to open in mid-February.