Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Market
Ventura Harbor Village
1449 Spinnaker Drive, A, Ventura
805-654-0546
www.andriasseafood.com
$4.50-$24


First visit: Sunday. Lunchtime. Elbow to elbow, packed to the gills, pun intended. Noisy, and did I say very crowded?

Fish and chips and clam chowder in French sourdough bread bowl. PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTBROOK

Lobster Sensation Stir Fry with rice. PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTBROOK

Line cooks hard at work. PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTBROOK

Cioppino ($17.70), fish stew included salmon, shrimp, tasty tiny clams and a couple of sweet tiny scallops in tomato broth, also had a ton of vegetables and cheese on top. PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTBROOK

 

Friend orders the cod fish and chips at the counter (line is long but moves quickly) and her order is ready soon after. I order the special: “Lobster Sensation Stir-fry” ($18.99). I wait. And wait. And finally when I inquire about my order, despite my buzzer lighting up, I am told it takes 15 minutes or more to prepare.

My friend, Maxine, a longtime customer of many years, digs into her fish and chips and declares, “There is a discernable difference — and not for the better.” I examine and find the batter way too thick. Maxine is none too happy — it’s been a decade since this paper praised Andria’s fish and chips.

The buzzer goes off and I claim my huge pile of rice pilaf topped with slices of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onion and a healthy portion of chopped lobster from … ?

The hard-working cooks behind the counter are not sure where the lobster is sourced from when I inquire, and say they will “find out.”

I return to the counter to see what the answer was:

“Georgia!” they said.

Georgia? Georgia? Who knew Georgia had lobsters? (Some research reveals that a person would have to dive 75 feet, at night, to catch a very strong spiny lobster off the coast of Georgia).

The portion size, accompanied by a strange sweet-and-sour sauce, was huge and there was enough to take home plenty in a “Georgia lobster to-go” box.

Whoopsy. That wasn’t quite right.

Turns out that Miguel, our knowledgeable saving grace in the restaurant’s small fresh fish market, cleared up the error.

“It’s Maine lobster — it doesn’t come whole, but prepped in pieces,” he told us as I bought a salmon steak to take home.

“Only a few places sell salmon steaks anymore,” he told us, noting that, “the bones add more flavor.”

Miguel was right. I took the piece of fish home and prepared it simply with butter and lemon and it was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve had in a long time.

Maxine bought a slice of fresh ahi tuna, and declared the same via email report: “Had the ahi for dinner tonight — it was delicious!”

The menu options are extensive, from the buoy (sourdough bread bowl) filled with clam chowder $9.90 or a small bowl for $4.50, to charbroiled halibut or salmon ($22-24). Tons of deep-fried choices on the menu range from shrimp or scallops to oysters or clams. There are items for the non-fish lover: charbroiled garlic, Parmesan or teriyaki chicken; meat,chicken and fish burgers and fries. There’s a kids menu, natch. And a rotating selection of imported beers and wines.

I went back for a second visit on a Tuesday for lunch — the restaurant was also busy, with a line out the door to order — to sample the cioppino ($17.70), a fish stew with Italian-American roots, in a tomato-garlic-saffron broth that originated in San Francisco and uses fish of the day. This version, which included salmon, shrimp, tasty tiny clams and a couple of sweet tiny scallops in an unremarkable tomato broth, also had a ton of vegetables (seemingly the same carrot slices, broccoli and cauliflower mix as used in the stir fry) and cheese on top. The whole purpose of ordering (or cooking) cioppino is to indulge in a bounty of the sea, not the garden. It was accompanied by tasty garlic French bread for dipping into the sauce; I didn’t take home the leftover veggies.

There are many seating options: plastic tables and chairs under umbrellas next to the parking lot; a cooler, fenced-in outdoor area; inside tables near the busy order counter and utensils station; a quieter indoor area between the pickup station and the small fish market, and the front enclosed patio with glass surrounded with harbor and mountain views.

Our conclusion? Shop the fish market and make your own cioppino, leaving the prepared dishes for those who enjoy this harborside casual eatery — including “Andria’s Famous Clam Chowder” made from scratch daily using the family recipe, by the bowl or an entire meal served in a hollowed-out loaf of French bread. It’s been a staple in Ventura since 1982 for the tourists and longtime loyal fans who favor hustle, bustle and nostalgia over flavor.