You may have heard rumors about the “secret” menus at some restaurants, but at Tonio’s Seafood Shack, it’s no secret. The chef cooks up special orders on request.
“It’s just one way that we cater to our customers,” said owner Tonio Galdi. “We’ll switch out the fish, for example if you prefer salmon to flounder, or we’ll serve an appetizer or entree over pasta, such as our gorgonzola mussels. We’ll change anything on the menu that we can for a customer request. The bottom line is that we want our customers to enjoy their meal.”
Tonio and Junior Cortez, executive chef, worked to put together a distinctive menu for The Shack. Customer favorites include the Lobster Reuben, an upscale twist on an old classic featuring a breaded lobster tail, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese. The panko-crusted wasabi tuna, the conch fritters and the pescatore featuring clams, shrimp, mussels and scallops also were popular. The Shack bake is another hit,
There are a variety of new items for the 2012 season. Fish and chips were added to the menu because customers kept asking for it. There are broiled combos, such as flounder and shrimp or shrimp and scallops. In addition, there are four or five specials each day. Popular ones include Tonio’s Bang Bang shrimp appetizer, oysters on the half shell, and lobster ravioli.
Kid-friendly options include shrimp and flounder as well as perennial favorites, chicken fingers, pasta, hot dogs and mozzarella sticks. On Mondays, kids eat free when an adult is present (one child per adult when dining in).
Best of all, the fish and shellfish served at Tonio’s is ‘fresh caught’ by the Cape May fishing industry, hence the restaurant’s tagline, “it’s shore’ fresh!” Seasonal fish varies from fluke and salmon to shellfish such as scallops, clams and oysters as well as soft shells and hard shell crabs (including both when in season). Sometimes, lobster tails are imported.
“The key to a good lobster is cold water,” acknowledges Tonio. “New Jersey has some of the finest outside of Maine, but we also sometimes bring them in from South Africa for the best variety.”
Weekly specials capitalize on some of the Jersey shore’s best catches. On Tuesday, diners may enjoy fried shrimp at $1.25 each and buffalo shrimp at $1.50 each (minimum 10 per order). On Wednesday, snow crabs are $10.99 a pound. On Thursdays, a bucket of mussels is $10 and a bucket of 50 clams is $20. The Early Bird Special takes 10 percent off the bill between 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily (not to be combined with any other offer). Patrons are invited to BYOB to accompany their meals at The Shack.
Now in its third season, Tonio hopes to attract repeat customers as well as new ones. “I sit down every night with my wait staff to ask how the customers liked the food and the service. It’s very important to me that we deliver a great experience.”
He acknowledged that Tonio’s Seafood Shack can be a casual date place, a family place, or a place to hang out with friends. “There’s something special about eating outside in the summer,” he said. “We’ve got a terrific patio with an awning so that you can enjoy your meal outdoors. We also have an expansive dining room inside if you prefer.”
Tonio’s Seafood Shack is the latest venture for husband and wife team Tonio and Kim Galdi. They spent 18 years establishing Tonio’s as the “go to” place for Italian—pizza, pasta, steaks and hoagies—in Avalon, N.J. The Seafood Shack is located right next door.
“This is something we’ve always wanted to do,” said Tonio Galdi, who has worked in the restaurant industry since age 14 when he started as a grill cook. “I’ve owned fine dining restaurants before, but wanted to open one closer to home. Seafood was the natural choice since we’re at the Jersey shore with access to a fresh catch on a daily basis.”
Kim has worked by Tonio’s side for the past 20 years, since he opened his first pizza restaurant in West Collingswood. For Tonio’s Seafood Shack, they took their inspiration from Key West, both in menu and in atmosphere. Voted the best of south Jersey by South Jersey magazine, the restaurant is casual in feel but gourmet in its offerings.
Customers also can purchase fresh fish and shellfish at the adjacent Fresh Fish Market which also carries prepared appetizers such as mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat, littleneck clams, crab cakes, sushi grade tuna, scallops, and more. Want your fresh clams steamed? Tonio’s will do it for no additional charge. General manager John Gleason oversees both operations while Jeffrey Barndt manages the pizzeria.
Dine-in and take-out options are available at both Tonio’s Pizza and Tonio’s Seafood Shack. The pizza place is open year-round and also offers delivery. The Shack and Fish market are open seasonally, from April through November. The Fish Market opens at 9 a.m.
Tonio’s Seafood Shack and Fish Market is located at 2475 Ocean Drive in Avalon, N.J. For more information, call (609) 368-TUNA or visit www.toniosseafoodshack.webs.com.