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Fisherman’s Market & Grill Now at Acrisure Arena

Fisherman’s Market & Grill Now at Acrisure Arena

Fisherman’s Restaurants Build Upon Long-Established Tradition in the Coachella Valley

By Bob Marra/ CoachellaValley.com

One of the many highlights of the new Acrisure Arena is the opening of the sixth restaurant in the Fisherman’s group of locally-owned fresh seafood restaurants and bars. At the arena, Fisherman’s Market & Grill is one of just two indoor restaurants along with CV Barbecue.

Fisherman’s Market & Grill offers the freshest seafood in all of Coachella Valley. Lou and Joe Pagano at the opening of their sixth restaurant located inside Acrisure Arena

Fisherman’s founder Lou Pagano is excited to be working with his son Joe in owning and operating the new arena-based restaurant, serving up their signature fish & chips, incredible fried fish sandwich and other specialty items made fresh at every event. He says that he and Joe have the ebbs and flows of serving hundreds of hungry hockey fans and concert goers on the intermittent basis that is the nature of the events totally figured out, so everything is running smoothly and with great feedback all around.

Acrisure Arena 11,000 plus seats and a Luxury Event Venue is home to the newest Fisherman’s Market & Grill and your Coachella Valley Firebirds.

“We’re very excited about the new restaurant at the arena and we’re excited for the Firebirds too,” says Pagano. “The arena team has done a very good job and we’re happy for them. It’s our first semi-pro team in this whole valley in a fantastic, brand-new venue. We love it.”

Lou’s foray into the restaurant business in the Coachella Valley started in 1993 with the opening of Fisherman’s Market & Grill, and the bar next to it called Fisherman’s Grotto Oyster Bar & Grill, in Palm Desert. It’s located on Fred Waring Drive near Highway 111 in the retail center anchored by Trader Joe’s and Michael’s. It was after he had retired and moved to Rancho Mirage in 1990 when he was approached a few years later by his dear friend Bill Mortz who was a commercial fisherman based in San Pedro who had a vision to open a fresh seafood restaurant in the desert.

Fisherman’s Market & Grill‘s Very First Location, and the bar next to it called Fisherman’s Grotto Oyster Bar & Grill, in Palm Desert, California
On Fred Waring Drive, right next to Michael’s and Trader Joe’s in Palm Desert, California

“Bill heard I was out here and came to see me and told me what he wanted to do, and we went for it with the Palm Desert restaurant,” says Pagano. “Bill basically talked me into it, and we jumped on it full speed. About five years later, we found the property in Palm Springs and that became restaurant number two plus our second bar.”

Taking over two buildings that were built in 1936, Lou and Bill renovated them and created the second Fisherman’s Market & Grill in 1998. At the same time, they opened Shanghai Red’s in the adjacent building where they serve a wide variety of bar bites, fresh seafood from Fisherman’s Market, grilled steaks, and lamb chops in an atmosphere that Lou says, “…will take you right to the docks.” Lou named the bar Shanghai Red’s after an old bar in San Pedro that was owned by a friend of his dad.

Lou Pagano, Owner Shanghai Red’s in Palm Springs, California
Shanghai Red’s in Palm Springs

While Lou’s life as a restaurateur started in 1993 in Palm Desert, it was his upbringing in San Pedro that provided him with keen insight to the world of seafood and the restaurant business. His father, Luigi, was a commercial fisherman who opened a small restaurant – Luigi’s on 14th – with Lou’s mom in the mid-1940s immediately after World War II. They went on to open a second small restaurant called Luigi’s on Ninth.

“My mom, sister and one of my older brothers would prep during the day and then my dad would come home from fishing with my grandfather and my uncles, and then he went to the restaurant to cook,” Pagano recalled. “He had been trained as a chef’s apprentice on a steamship line when he was young, so he was an excellent chef. He instilled in me the value of making sure that the food quality should be first and foremost and to serve absolutely everything as fresh as possible every day.”

Lou worked at the family restaurants as a kid but as he got older, he was drawn to the ocean working on ships, fishing boats and a variety of other boats, including tugboats. It was this period in his life when Lou developed many relationships with the owners and operators of the fishing boats based in San Pedro.

“Every day a truck is coming out here to stock Fisherman’s with the freshest fish directly from the boats in San Pedro

Since inception, Fisherman’s has utilized the relationships Lou and even his father developed in San Pedro to ensure that only the highest quality fish and shellfish are available at their restaurants. “We work directly with companies that either I’d known the owners or the family of the owners out of San Pedro,” says Pagano. “We do an enormous amount of buying from the original companies with which we’ve had relationships for decades, that my father was doing business with, people we consider family and good friends after all these years.”

Pagano says that unlike any other restaurant or even the specialty grocery stores in the Coachella Valley, “Every day a truck is coming out here to stock Fisherman’s with the freshest fish directly from the boats in San Pedro. Every day. That’s why I know a bottom line that my seafood is fresher than anybody’s in the Valley.”

Pagano’s access to the freshest seafood and the frequency of his deliveries has even caught the attention and patronage of local private chefs. “We do a lot of business with private chefs because I can get whatever they want as fresh as possible from any corner of the planet,” says Pagano. “For example, if a private chef wants Nova Scotian salmon from a particular region, I can acquire it. There’s really not any seafood that I can’t acquire in its freshest state.”

Shanghai Red’s in Palm Springs

In addition to Fisherman’s firm commitment to the freshest fish and ingredients available, Pagano is just as dedicated to customer service and his employees. “I’m the first person to say that my crew, the people that work for me are really the heart of the company,” Pagano notes. “Yes, I’m the owner of the company, and I work the company daily. But it’s the people who manage each restaurant and work the front line, the team members who take the orders at the registers, how they treat my clientele that also sets us apart.”

Fisherman’s Market & Grill in La Quinta, California

Since opening Fisherman’s Market & Grill and Shanghai Red’s in Palm Springs, Pagano also opened a Fisherman’s Market & Grill in La Quinta, Fisherman’s Landing Bar & Grill at the J.W. Marriott in Palm Desert, and most recently Fisherman’s Market & Grill at Acrisure Arena.

Fisherman’s Landing Bar & Grill at the J.W. Marriott in Palm Desert

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