Bianca Piccillo doesn’t mince words when we asked her why she decided to open a sustainable fish shop:“Well, the fish options were pretty grim, and Brooklyn doesn’t really need another restaurant.”
Well said, Bianca.
Piccillo put her money where her mouth is and opened Mermaid’s Garden in Prospect Heights. She and her husband, Mark Usewicz, have culinary chops to spare: Piccillo worked at Oleana, al di lá and Prune, and Usewicz put in time at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris and at Park Slope’s Palo Santo.
Just in case you had any lingering doubts: Piccillo is also an ichthyologist (fish biologist) who has done research at the University of Maryland and Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Mermaid’s Garden is worthy of a special trip, even if you don’t live in the neighborhood. The fish are responsibly sourced, fully traceable and seem to practically sparkle. In addition,the shop offers cooking classes and wonderful prepared foods such as fish stock and sugar snap peas with preserved lemon and green garlic.
Every stop into the market will have you feeling more like an ichthyologistyourself. A recent conversation with Piccillo left us with some important takeaways:
Local doesn’t equal sustainable when it comes to fish. Don’t buy a fish just because it’s local—how it was raised and/or caught is more important.
Fish is seasonal. After a long winter of telling customers, “No, we don’t have salmon,” Picillio is finally welcoming wild salmon back into the shop.
Try unfamiliar types. Once overfished, the Acadian Redfish fish is back in a big way. Not only is it healthy and delicious (think a delicate-tasting Snapper), it’s also affordable.
Cook fish in an NYC apartment without fear. A small cup of bleach sitting next to the stove while you cook will neutralizeany smelly odors.
644 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn