After Celebrating Its One-Year Anniversary at Its Rolling Hills Location, the Ungaros Are Ready to Swim Further
Written By: Gabriela Mungarro
Photography By: Joseph Mendoza San Pedro Fish Market
There are few distinct places most can recall that are able to contrive memories of good times with loved ones while enjoying tasty food. For those lucky enough to live near the coast (or who are willing to embark on long drives to get there), the San Pedro Fish Market is undoubtedly a headliner when it comes to traditions and family time. Reigning as the seafood king in SoCal since it opened its doors 6 decades ago, the acclaimed landmark eatery has branched out after 60 years and celebrated its one year anniversary at its Rolling Hills Estates location.
Live mariachi music and loyal patrons filled the lively, casual San Pedro Fish Market Grille on April 13 as CEO Michael Ungaro and his family gathered to welcome everyone to the grand celebration. With the smell of freshly cooked fish, lobster and shrimp lingering in the air, it was easy to see why the grille has been such a success. Customers sitting inside and out in the patio gasped at the sight of the massive family-style world famous shrimp trays filled with potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and, of course, their signature seasoning. The grille is definitely the type of place that welcomes a large appetite and offers a comfortable, relaxed ambiance.
While the fish market upholds their recognized trays as top priority at their grille, their overall mission comes down to celebrating food and family above all else. “When you go to Span Pedro, you see [about] three to four generations of families come in, and they’re all like ‘I used to come in with my parents and now I’m here with my kids.’ And that’s special. I think that’s rare,” said Ungaro.
In fact, the market’s mission is deeply embedded in its 1956 opening in San Pedro by Mackey Ungaro, who was a bookmaker at the time and launched the business as a way to legitimize his income. Shortly after opening, Mackey passed the makert’s stewardship to his 15-year-old son Henry and nephew Tommy Amalfitano.
“We’ve always been a family-owned business,” said Ungaro. “We’re still family-owned and operated. My grandfather started it, and my dad and his best friend had a choice to go to college or run the business—they decided to run the business. So I’m [the] third generation, and we’re going on the fourth, so now you start to see the great grandkids starting to join the business.”
Sticking to traditional recipes used when the restaurant was first established, the grille does its best to not deviate from them but has introduced accidental items such as the lobster-grilled cheese that shot to fame thanks to an Instagram influencer; the grille had to add it to their menu due to the many requests from customers. Aside from iconic items on the menu such as the shrimp trays and shipwreck sandwich, Ungaro recommends newcomers who might be overwhelmed by the trays to try the grille’s swordfish fish tacos that are packed with flavor and a meaty texture wrapped in a grilled corn tortilla and drizzled with their signature sauce.
As a Southern California staple, the original location in San Pedro attracts visitors from around the country and drew 1.8 million customers in 2018, making them the second highest paid seaside attraction in the West Coast (Seaworld is the first.) and the largest restaurant in California. Finding it difficult to cater to the masses, the Ungaros decided it was finally time to expand and opened three grille locations throughout the South Bay in a year-and-a-half. “There is a demand for high-quality seafood that you feel good about at an affordable price, and there are a few others doing it, but none had our 60 years of experience,” said Ungaro.
Although the new grilles in Rolling Hills, Harbor City and Wilmington have been successful, the plans don’t stop there for the San Pedro Fish Market Grille. “We want to become a national brand,” explained Ungaro. “That’s our long-term goal. We want to open locations in every major city around the coast. We have a lot of fans already in Arizona and Las Vegas, so we’re looking to go there next, and San Diego.”
San Pedro Fish Market will continue serving its iconic fresh fish dishes throughout the LA Waterfront improvements that are currently underway. A second market location is set to launch in Long Beach later this year.
Native Knowledge: The market is dedicated to helping communities near their establishments and offers local students the opportunity to be creative and inventive by submitting videos to their team of producers to win scholarships.
San Pedro Fish Market Grille | Rolling Hills Estates
3 Peninsula Ctr
Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274
San Pedro Fish Market Grille | Harbor City
1313 W Sepulveda Blvd
Harbor City, CA 90501
San Pedro Fish Market Grille | Wilmington
120 West G Street
Wilmington, CA 90744
San Pedro Fish Market | San Pedro
1190 Nagoya Way
San Pedro, CA 90731
San Pedro Fish Market | Long Beach
***LOCATION COMING SOON***