Meet Joe: Citarella's Founder and Original Fishmonger

Citarella's Owner and Original Fishmonger

 

JoeForklifts beep as they zip past in every direction and the good-spirited banter of apron-clad fishmongers fills the cold, early morning air. The sun is still hours from peeking over the horizon but the Fulton Fish Market is alive with activity.
Amidst the buzz, a man enters the market from a door near stall #4. Smiles spread across the faces of men hard-at-work. “Joe!” they shout as Citarella’s owner (and original fishmonger) Joe Gurrera walks in their direction. Once the youngest “kid” at the market, Joe is now a Fulton Fish Market veteran — his notoriety earned by decades of hard work.
JoeThe son of an Italian immigrant, Joe got his start in seafood when he was just a teenager, working alongside his father at the family’s fish shop in Greenwich Village. After college, he went into business for himself, supplying seafood to some of New York City’s top restaurants. He became friends with the fishermen and fishmongers at the Fulton Fish Market (one of whom he looks back on as a mentor), collecting pearls of wisdom from those around him and working hard.
It wasn’t long before Joe received a call from legendary chef, Wolfgang Puck. His reputation for sourcing an incredible variety of the freshest and the best preceded him — and Chef Puck wanted Joe to supply his restaurant on the West Coast. In less than 24 hours, Joe was on a $99 flight to Los Angeles to meet with Chef Puck himself. Their meeting that day would mark the beginning of a span, during which Joe would deliver seafood to many LA’s hottest chefs.
Though he was still busy supplying his NYC customers, Joe spent the early 1980’s flying to the west coast every Tuesday. He would load cartons of his immaculate, hand-selected seafood onto a plane at Kennedy Airport before taking the commercial flight to Los Angeles. When he arrived in California, he would rent a van and personally deliver each chef’s order.
Joe’s steadfast nature paid off. In 1983, when he heard that Citarella (a local seafood shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side) was for sale, he bought it — immediately vowing to make it different than other seafood shops at the time. Citarella would be pristine and it would offer the most incredible variety of dazzlingly fresh seafood.
JoeThrough the years Joe grew his Citarella family, broadening the business with each new addition. Citarella is now a culinary hotspot with a full selection of gourmet goods; its own off-site commissary; multiple locations (and a wine shop) throughout New York City, the Hamptons, and Greenwich, Connecticut; and an online seafood store that ships nationwide. In addition, Joe owns seafood wholesale business, Lockwood & Winant and seafood purveying business, Meat Without Feet.
Even more impressive? Despite Joe’s success, he is just as passionate about his work as he was on day one. He still makes daily calls to trusted fishermen — to find out what’s arriving on their boats and to claim the freshest from their haul. He still makes deals to gain exclusive access to seafood items and stock his stores with culinary gems. And, he still visits each of his gourmet markets on a regular basis. He even designed the shelves in his Greenwich, CT wine shop himself, after seeing something similar on a trip to Verona!
Joe’s dedication defines him. He is respected for it, successful because of it, and motivated by it. It is what drives him forward and onto each new adventure. Or, as Joe himself explained in his 2017 commencement speech at the Culinary Institute of America, “Don’t underestimate commitment. Others will respond to your excitement.”

Hungry for more culinary insight and inspiration? Look for Joe’s first cookbook, expected Summer 2018.

socialize with Joe on Facebook and Instagram.