Lunchtime at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey can feel like a busy Saturday flea market with shops and restaurants clamoring for your attention and business. They all promise the best deals and views on the wharf. Every place has free samples of clam chowder and while, let’s be real, I really wanna come back and just do a chowder crawl to sample them all, there’s one restaurant that isn’t begging for business and shying customers away with their cat calling (chowder calling?)
Dominic Mercucio opened Cafe Fina, one of the first Italian seafood restaurants on the wharf, 30 years ago in 1958. Coming from a family of fishermen, Dominic wanted a place where everything is made from scratch, locally sourced, and delicious! It doesn’t get much more fresh than the morning fishermen bringing over their supply to be cooked and served that day!
For fine dining food, Cafe Fina keeps the local feel and family history alive with photos of his dad fishing, historic newspaper ads, and signed celebrity photos of all of the people who have visited this amazing restaurant. In the upstairs dining area there is a classy feel and stunning views overlooking the boats leaving the harbor. And outside? Not only are they dog-friendly but Millie even got her own menu!
Now let’s talk about the food…their chowder! Oh my goodness their chowder! Cafe Fina has the best clam chowder I’ve ever had, and having just returned from a trip to Maine that is saying a LOT! It’s so creamy and just, well, perfect! Pairing the chowder with crab cakes was the perfect way to kick off this meal.
The main course was beyond beautiful (and delicious)! We had the whole roasted red snapper. They use their wood fire oven to cook the fish and it’s stuffed with tomatoes and served with vegetables and potatoes. So often a meal can be beautiful and then not live up to it in flavor but this was absolutely not an issue with this one!
We also had the Pasta Fina, the dish this place is most known for (and I can see why!). Between the baby shrimp, tomatoes, olives, and shallots all mixed together in a butter clam sauce this was the perfect definition of “seafood pasta”. It was full of flavor and yet super light! I could also basically drink that butter clam sauce it was so amazing!
We finished off the meal with a handmade cannoli and creme brûlée. I swore by this point there was no way I could eat another bite but this dessert had me begging for more!
I fully admit that I am not a food critic because I tend to like all food and they blend together but Cafe Fina was definitely a meal that stood out. There are not many dishes that have me savoring every single bite to get the most out of each flavor. Between Dominic and his hospitably, the insanely good food, and the relaxing wharf atmosphere, this is a place I will absolutely be returning to (and dreaming about until I do!).