Cooking just like mom did

The peninsula's largest city, Monterey was the originalpolitical, economic, and settlement hub for the state. It's home toSteinbeck's famed Cannery Row, now a shopping and hotel district,and the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium.

In the early 1900s, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese fishermenplied Monterey's waters for sardines. In one season, about 250,000tons of the cannable creatures were taken from the water ―but the population crashed in the 1940s.

Today the bay is once again producing a bounty, with therebounded sardine catch as well as squid, anchovies, rockfish, andmackerel. Brothers Johnny and David DiGirolamo grew up working intheir family's restaurant, helping to serve fish their Sicilianfather had caught. A U.S. Navy gunner in World War II, he returnedto Monterey to marry a Japanese American nurse who had joined theRed Cross to escape internment camp. Both parents taught the boysto cook; now they run one of the city's most popular seafoodeateries, Monterey's Fish House.

"We've always tried to do things thinking, 'How would Mom doit,' " says chef David. "We serve our mussels with marinara, whichis very Italian, but they also have chili and sake, from ourmother."

Monterey is full of culinary gems like the Fish House.Restaurants line Cannery Row, where packinghouses once distributedthe bay's harvest across the country.

Visitors can try making dishes like lobster cream sauce andsautéed flounder at the four-year-old Culinary Center of Monterey. From the kitchen, you can seethe sea ― a view that can't help but enhance the flavor ofthe food.

SEAFOOD IN MONTEREY

Culinary Center of Monterey. Take gourmet cooking classes insleek kitchens overlooking the bay, or dine at Mary's at theCulinary Center, the school's restaurant. Classes (from $75) Wed-Sun; closed Mon. 625 Cannery Row; (831)333-2133.

Duck Club Restaurant. High-end California cuisine andgrilled seafood, served in a dining room overlooking the water. Breakfast daily, dinner Tue-Sun. In Monterey Plaza Hotel &Spa, 400 Cannery Row; www.woodsidehotels.comor (831) 646-1706.

Monterey's Fish House. Humble structure on Del Monte Avenuenear State 1 belies lively interior with outstanding fresh seafooddishes. Lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily. 2114 Del Monte Ave.; (831)373-4647.

Sardine Factory. Much-loved 34-year-old restaurant servestraditional Italian seafood as well as innovative dishes in asprawling former cannery building. Dinner daily. 701 Wave St.; www.sardinefactory.com or(831) 373-3775.

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