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MORRIS — Just over the Morris town line on Bantam Lake, West Shore Seafood's takeout meals and fresh food market have become a popular stop on Route 209 for weekenders, vacationing families and local residents.
Susie Bertaccini Pregno opened West Shore Seafood in 2007. She started small, with fried fish, clam and shrimp baskets, burgers and fries. Today, the menu has expanded to include clam chowder and small plates with crab and fish cakes, salmon burgers, seared tuna and calamari.
A new chef has also joined the staff in the kitchen, Rob Thompson, who previously worked at the Canterbury School and Sisco Catering, as well as the Bank Street Tavern and the White Horse. "He's got great ideas and great experience," Pregno said.
As she spoke, Thompson came out of the kitchen holding a fried wonton, which was crispy and hot, stuffed with pulled pork, cheese and red onion. "What do you think?" he asked, as Pregno munched on the treat.
"These are great," she said with a smile.
West Shore Seafood's menu has something for every taste. Sandwiches range from traditional lobster rolls — served warm with melted butter or cold with mayo — to fried fish, grilled swordfish, a salmon BLT or a Cajun shrimp wrap, and grilled chicken or an Angus burger, all served with homemade coleslaw. Onion strings or fries can be added. Caesar or house salads can be dressed up with chicken, fish or shrimp for an additional charge.
West Shore also offers chicken, fish, shrimp or pineapple tacos, fried platters with fish, clams, oysters or shrimp, and baked or grilled meals with cod, salmon, swordfish or tuna. Children's meals have chicken fingers, popcorn fish, a hot dog or grilled cheese. Special offerings are the smoked fish dip, wings, hot honey Brussels sprouts, various spicy and sweet sauces, and roasted vegetables, rice, spicy rice and a seaweed salad.
The takeout window fills orders, and diners can take the food away or enjoy outdoor dining under the restaurant's big white tent or at a picnic table outdoors. The restaurant grounds offer plenty of parking and room to stroll after a meal. Bantam Lake is just across the street. Diners are also welcome to BYOB.
During the last 16 years, Pregno said, the business has grown steadily; when the pandemic came in 2020, and many eateries had to close their doors, West Shore Seafood was ready.
"We were already poised for outdoor eating and takeout, and it was busy, very busy," she said. "People came out to order from us because we were one of the few places that were open."
Pregno and her husband, Mike Pregno, have a three-year-old daughter. Mike runs a painting business, and helps out when he has time, said his wife.
The biggest challenge for any food business is inflationary costs, and seafood is no exception, Susie Pregno said.
"As it is, seafood is expensive and not always available," she said. "There's a seasonal aspect to it, too, and there's fuel costs and labor shortages that all affect the price. It hits every step of the industry. Pricing is very volatile."
To compensate for rising prices, she's added chicken wings, which are brined and smoked in-house. Crab cakes and lobster rolls remain her best-sellers. Along with the seafood dinners, West Shore has also added a few plant-based items, like the pineapple taco, she said.
"We also have a vegan special, Korean-style mushrooms with other vegetables, over rice. People really like that," she said.
To take advantage of the BYOB option, Pregno is also planning to add "mocktails" to the menu, with mixers available to purchase. "We'll have a blueberry margarita, and we'll use seasonal fruits and herbs, so people can bring their own alcohol and mix them themselves," she said.
The seafood market inside sells fresh fish, shellfish, and prepared foods to go.
Pregno is working on a catering menu and a new website as she looks ahead. She's also hoping to add more parking.
"We have 32 spaces now, but sometimes it's not enough," she said.
West Shore Seafood is located at 449 Bantam Lake Road, Morris. To reach the restaurant, call 860) 567-8000 or visit westshoreseafood.com.