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Son Hopes to Rebuild Father's Seafood Rep

Longtime owner sold Codfish Tom's in 2003; son left higher-paying career to restore service to quality he remembers.

Jesse Annunziato has fond memories of his father’s Main Street seafood store, where he would ride his bike as a kid, put in some work behind the counter and listen to his dad banter and rattle off recipes to his many customers.

“When I was a little kid there was never a lull in a day. It was known as the place to go on Long Island for fish,” Annunziato said. “People came here from Manhattan just to get fish because they knew ‘Codfish Tom’ was the guy.”

The elder Annunziato worked the counter while his wife worked the kitchen. After their divorce in 1993 Tom closed the kitchen, and 10 years later sold the store he had run since 1981.

It wasn’t six months before longtime regulars were going elsewhere for their fish, Annunziato said. Over the next eight years the shop changed hands five times, never regaining the reputation it once enjoyed.

“The service sucked, they had no variety, the fish was old,” said Annunziato. “I bought the place back because the people in this town needed it. There’s no good-quality fish markets in this town, and it’s something that this town does. They eat fish. And they shouldn’t have to go to Northport to do that.” 

The 23-year-old diesel mechanic left the more lucrative pay of that line of work to be up at 2 a.m. each day heading to Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. He is seeking to build his reputation on his own name, rechristening the place Jesse James Seafood. He never takes a day off, and often has his wife, Lorie, working alongside him as his own parents did for years.

Annunziato’s business plan is simple: recreate the environment he witnessed as a child. He’s quick to smile, and his voice fills the narrow store when he’s chatting up customers, reciting recipes learned from his father. Paintings of trawlers and maritime scenes by a local artist who knew his father fill the wall behind the counter. The kitchen is open again, offering fried and broiled dinners.

But it’s the care that Annunziato takes in everything he does that he is banking on to make the store a success. The smell of fish is noticeably absent inside, which he attributes to a strict cleaning regimen and his products’ freshness. He pulls bones, one by one, from a fillet of salmon, extolling the importance of removing them all should the piece end up on a youngster’s plate.

So far, the reaction has been one of relief among former customers, many of whom remember Codfish Tom’s, Annunziato said. Open for less than four months, he said he is currently breaking even but is seeing a steady increase in business, as well as signs of the kind of customer relationships which engender true loyalty. He addresses return customers by name, talking fish with one older gentleman who, he explains afterword, is an avid fisherman who comes in three times per week since his first visit.

Annunziato takes pride in his duties and enjoys using the knowledge imparted to him throughout his life, but it’s something he said he wouldn’t do anywhere else.

“There was no other fish markets I would work for because I didn’t believe in what they believed in,” he said. “They believed in screwing the customer any way they possibly could. I couldn’t work for somebody that did that. It’s rotten.”

Kathleen January 26, 2012 at 01:15 PM
What a relief and a delight to have a decent fish market in town! Traveling to st. James or northport cut down considerably on healthy seafood consumption . Jesse is knowlegeable and enthusiastic! He's got my business
Jennifer Ryan January 26, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Happy to hear this! I welcome you back and will most certainly come back to the tradition of your family, fresh seafood with a smile, this has been sorely missed!
CJ January 26, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Jesse is always super helpful when I go in with tips & recipes - which is a relief since I am always worried about ruining the fish! I would definitely recommend his store to anyone who loves seafood - he's a great guy, selling great product in our town. Can't really beat that! ...and the crab cakes are amazing.
lisa costello January 26, 2012 at 04:06 PM
best of luck to jesse!
clare banville January 26, 2012 at 04:15 PM
c banville this is geat news....my family loved codfish toms....he even cooked lobsters for my sons to take to the beach when they went on dates during the summer....we still use some of the recipes he gave us...even saw him on tv giving recipes...we really need a good fish store in town....not another pizza place or drug store......good luck codfish jr!
Christine Dabrowski January 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Best of Luck... & Love to Dad & Mom too... Did art work for both of them..menus for Tom, t-shirts & original Logo! Met your dad when we first moved here 1986, when there was a real farmers market on the entire corner. Was great & was glad your dad stayed & opened his own store next door. He ALWAYS had a bug smile for everyone!!! Fun watching you & your sister grow-up like all of us!! Hugs & Best wishes to you & your family!!!Sorry I will come in...Christine & Family
Jesse James Seafood January 26, 2012 at 06:55 PM
To all our customers and friend thanks for your support and confidence!!! Stop by anytime!! wW are open Mon-Thurs & Sat 9:30 am - 7:30, Fri 9:30am - 8:30 pm, Sun 10:00 am - 6:00pm
Stephy Burns-Nitto January 26, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Good luck to you and Lori! Very proud of you two!!!
Concerned January 27, 2012 at 04:48 AM
The best of luck to you Jessie Annunziato. There are too many empty storefronts in Kings Park at the moment, and it would be horrible to see another. I eat fish a few times a week, and now I'll be buying my fish from you! Now, I wonder if the local restaurants do the 'quality restaurant' thing and buy local and in season?
jackie cicchetti January 27, 2012 at 12:24 PM
The Chilean Sea Bass was great ! Thanks Jessie !
John Massaro January 27, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Excellent news here! Every Christmas, my Mother would go there for her Clams, Polpo, Crabs, etc & was ALWAYS satisfied. Anytime Kings Park gets a local business instead of a major chain, it makes me smile. Are they in the same location they used to be or did they move? RESTORE THE SMALL TOWN TO KINGS PARK!
John Massaro January 27, 2012 at 09:16 PM
...Furthermore. I don't think My Mom knows about this. I have to e-mail her this article. I'll bet a paycheck she'll be down there picking out some type of fresh fish within an hour after hearing about it!
nancy abrams January 29, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Nancy Abrams Your dreams will come true, because you have pride, talent, personality and quality products. All those that tried to run the business before you and Cod Fish Tom, couldn't succeed because their priorities were screwed up, they were out for the quick buck, not for the people's satisfaction. YOU WILL DO GREAT!!!
nancy abrams January 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
What's do you recommend this week. Will you have a special for Valentines Day!
Dr. Remulak January 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Jesse is doing a great job. Excellent, fresh fish sold by a young man who truly has a passion for his profession. I highly recommend Jesse James Seafood and hope that Kings Park and Fort Salonga residents support his new business. And while you're at it, support all your local businesses (Sarin has GREAT Thai food, for example).
John Massaro February 01, 2012 at 03:21 PM
This is what we all need more of. A businessman who takes pride in satisfying his customers, not just looking to make a buck for himself...
Jesse James Seafood February 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Like us on facebook and we will post all specials http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jesse-James-Seafood/197769520319915
craftynancy February 04, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Will you have Super Bowl Party Platters?
Jesse James Seafood February 04, 2012 at 02:04 AM
yes we will have platters for super bowl order on saterday to reserve your platter we will have either shrimp cocktail platter or shrimp cocktail and crab blend platters

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