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September 25, 2023

Legendary Moss Landing restaurant closes

Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery owner continuing smaller location

MOSS LANDING — A long line of hungry customers stretched out the door of Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery in Moss Landing Monday, the last day of the popular restaurant.

For 22 years the business has seen a steady flow of customers, many repeats, at the Sandholdt Road location, sandwiched between the Pacific and the Moss Landing Harbor. The chief reason for the closure is simple, said owner Phil DiGirolamo: the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute did not renew its lease. In the works now for MBARI is to build a 33,000-square-foot marine research center in its place.

Tiffany Buckley of Modesto said she and her family have been eating at Phil’s for years.

“It’s almost like a family tradition when we come to the area,” she said. “It’s sad they’re closing. It’s such a great location and their food, the staff—all of it is just great.”

DiGirolamo has been in business for 40 years, just over half of that has been at the current location. But closing his doors Monday does not put a permanent stop to business: DiGirolamo has been operating Phil’s Snack Shack & Deli, just around the corner, at 7912 Moss Landing Road for quite some time. Though a much smaller venue, DiGirolamo said there will also be a food truck stationed there as well that will serve many of Phil’s favorites. He hinted that the Snack Shack will take care of customers until he finds a new location that can fit his entire operation.

“We weren’t just a restaurant,” DiGirolamo said. “We manufactured, we shipped, we fileted and utilized our big refrigerator.”

Mary Lee of Aptos stood in line Monday.

“I just learned this second that this is their last day,” she said. “I’ve been coming here forever. I love their clam chowder; it’s the best. The ambience is great.”

DiGirolamo said the closure had been in the works for at least 12 years.

“It’s been a while but we knew it was coming,” he said. “In my mind it does not feel like the final day. Some people have shared stories about their children coming here and enjoying the atmosphere of Moss Landing; there’s a lot of history here.”

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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