THERE IS FISH AND THERE IS SEAFOOD. THERE ARE THE SCORES OF FRIED WHITE SOMETHINGS, THE STICK CRABMEAT THAT NEVER ONCE SAW A SHELL, THE GRAYED-OUT TUNA AND THE SUPERMARKET SALMON THAT’S DYED PINK. THEN THERE IS THE OTHER SORT. THERE IS THE GROUPER SO FRESH THE MUSCLES SEEM TO REPLENISH THEMSELVES AFTER THEY ARE COOKED, THE BOLD MEATY FLAVOR OF STURGEON, EVEN THE SALTY SWEETNESS OF A LITTLE LOCAL OYSTER. IN SAVANNAH, THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT.
Charlie Russo’s seafood on Abercorn Street traffics the latter category. Russo is a second-generation fishmonger who talks about Georgia fish almost like they were family. He can be found in the back of the shop, dressed in a purple rubber apron and a black University of Georgia hat, overseeing the deconstruction of loads of fish that were flapping on the deck of a boat just a few hours ago. Fish is in his blood, he says.
“It’s got to be in your blood, the fish business,” he says. “It’s a hard business.” Russo has an encyclopedic knowledge of the fish that run in the waters from Darien to Bluffton. He has many charts of fish species that line the walls of the store and his office. The greatest resource of coastal Georgia to him, however, is shrimp.
“The local shrimp we get in these waters, the greatest in the world – tastewise, the supply, the quality—we don’t fool with anything else that’s imported, no pond raised stuff,” he says. “The shrimp here is our biggest commodity.” The Russos are a fish family—Charlie’s father opened shop in 1946, and now even his grandson and great-grandson are working there. They aren’t the only ones. Savannah is filled with people who have a passion for fish. Here’s where the fish go next:
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Tags: Belford's, Eat, Elizabeth's On 37th, Fresh, Garbaldi's, Savannah, seafood, steak