It can be hard to find an upside in the prolonged Covid saga, but the story of how the Port of Redwood City came to try out having a mini-Fisherman’s Wharf on the docks definitely qualifies.
About eight months ago, the Port’s Executive Director Kristine Zortman got a call from the owner of Pioneer Seafoods, who was desperately looking for a place to relocate his fishing enterprise. Giuseppe Pennisi, a third-generation commercial fisherman, had been doing business for the past five years in San Francisco but lost his spot at Pier 47 as a result of Covid-related changes. For months, the Chico resident drove to Bay Area harbors looking for one that could handle a fishing trawler and was open to fresh fish sales to the public. He didn’t even know Redwood City had a harbor until he found it on Google Earth and dialed the office to explain what he wanted to do. Pennisi was stunned by Zortman’s response.
“You’ve got to remember, I’ve got six kids, my bills were piling up, I’ve got no place to go,” he recalls. “And all of a sudden this woman says to me, after I’ve been turned down for three-and-a-half months—the exuberance in her voice, it was almost like paralyzing to me.”
Says Zortman: “We said, yeah we’d be delighted to try this out on a pilot basis because really what it did was it brought a whole new use to our port and we thought a real great opportunity to kind of activate the waterfront and be able to offer something new to the residents and the community and it’s been going great.”
The FV Pioneer has been docking in Redwood City since late last summer, bringing thousands of pounds of fish—chilipepper rockfish, petrale sole, halibut, and black cod to name a few of the dozens of varieties. Pennisi and his deck crew sell to consumers right off F Dock, plus fish & chips, fish tacos and other items from a food truck. Live music, such as steel drums, adds to the festive atmosphere.
The trawler travels 15 to 35 miles offshore, between Pigeon Point and Point Reyes, and brings in 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of fish, which are sold Friday through Sunday. (Check out Pioneer Seafoods on Facebook for the schedule.)
Despite—or perhaps because of—a lifetime spent fishing, Pennisi loves fresh, local fish, loves talking about it, loves cooking it, and loves eating it.
“If you buy fish from the Pioneer,” he says in a video, “I guarantee you, I guarantee you, you will have a totally different experience than you’ve ever had in your life. Because you will be able to taste something for the first time that is so delicious that people who don’t even like seafood all of a sudden become seafood lovers.”