Since 1958 Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, Calif., has been like another home to Dominic Mercurio. "A bunch of us used to come down here every day in the summer time," he recalls. "We were 10 or 11 years old and would leave home in the morning and not go back until dark. We'd be fishing every day, catching little smelts or mackerel.”
Some years later, Mercurio opened a restaurant on Old Fisherman’s Wharf, naming it after his mother, Josephina. Family recipes passed down from grandmother to mother are used at Cafe Fina, which specializes in Italian cuisine, homemade pasta and fresh fish since 1989. "When the guys from the local fish company eat out, they come to my restaurants. When you work in the fishing industry, you only eat truly fresh fish,” said Mercurio.
In addition Mercurio owns and operates a 25-acre stretch of sun-soaked land in Los Banos, Calif., which produces fine crops organic produce for a farm-to-table experience at Café Fina not found anywhere else on the Wharf. He is also a knowledgeable cultivator of almonds, and started J.D. Almonds in October 2000, a commercial venture that Mercurio estimates produces 2 million pounds of almonds annually.
Mercurio and his family are part of Monterey’s famous fishing industry legacy. Fishermen from all over the world who settled in Monterey enjoyed a bounty of sardines, squid and other seafood, but when the sardines vanished in the 1950s, the fisherman ventured north to Alaska for salmon and to South America for tuna, seasons that are still observed today.
"My father Jean introduced my brother and I to the fishing industry, and shared everything he knew. We are proud to continue his legacy," Mercurio said, pointing to one of the many family photos hanging from the walls of Cafe Fina. "He was born in a French province of North Africa. He was one of a group of Sicilians who went there to fish the sardines and who were kicked out during the French Revolution in the 1950s. That's how he and his five brothers ended up coming here – for the sardines."
Mercurio also co-operates Domenico’s on the Wharf with his brother Sam Mercurio and Sam’s wife Angeli, which serves fresh seafood and Italian cuisine and opened in 1981 on Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Mercurio’s excellent cooking has enabled him to be the sole caterer for John Madden’s induction ceremony into the Football Hall of Fame in 2006, and he continues to tour with him every year on the Madden Cruiser to Canton, Ohio. Mercurio has earned him visits from Rachel Ray, the Hillstrand Brothers of the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and other TV stars. Mercurio is also committed to his local community, donating on a regular basis to a number of organizations in the Monterey area.