I met Perry Raso on a chilly Saturday morning in Matunuck. Our first stop was his greenhouse where he grows much of the produce used in his restaurant, Matunuck Oyster Bar. It was only April at the time and he already had flowering tomato plants taller than me (I may be short but still, these were some huge plants). Tiny seedlings were sprouting to life, waiting until they were big enough to be transplanted outdoors to his vegetable farm. After being handed a bag of pea greens to take home, we mosied on down to his dock, where we’d be taking his work pontoon to scope out his oyster farm. Originally, the pontoon was scheduled to carry only two people, Perry and myself, but our dogs followed us onto the boat. Like owners, like pups.
As we made our way onto Potter Pond, we talked about his passion for aquaculture, and how he wished he could spend more time on the water. Being the face of Matunuck Oyster Bar, he doesn’t get out as much as he would like.
When he started his seven acre aquaculture farm in 2002, oysters were the only thing on his mind. Now it’s 2016, and bay scallops are next. “A raw bay scallop is the sweetest thing in the world and one of my favorite things to eat,” Perry says. While discussing why he hasn’t grown bay scallops yet, it becomes apparent that they are a much more challenging product to grow. “[Bay scallops] must be stocked at a much lighter stocking density than oysters,” he explains, “and they don’t overwinter as well.”
The first bay scallops he served to hungry diners was back in March, and he started them two years ago – that’s how long it took them to grow to size. He served them mariniere style with garlic, white wine and fresh herbs. It was the first time locally grown scallops had been served in a Rhode Island restaurant – quite a distinction.
His first harvest of bay scallops is virtually gone, having been devoured by his guests. Although I’ll have to wait my turn for these briny and sweet delights, I know it’ll be totally worth the wait. 629 Succotash Road, Matunuck. 783-4202,