When you want fresh fish, go to the place that serves fish fresh.
I thoroughly take pleasure in the art of eating in good company and tend to be more gob smacked by juicy conversation than by pure flavor of a meal. A recent lunch at U Luvassu at Quai Hirondelle was definitely an exception.
After the first mouthful of bluefin tuna tartar, I had to put my fork down and let my taste buds enjoy the ride before indulging in another bite. It happened again with the bluefin tuna rillette and once more with the sea bream royale raw sashimi.
I looked to the seat next to me, and Sami Ben Slama was grinning at my reaction. Ben Slama is a seafood import/export expert who runs the day-to-day operations of U Luvassu. “It is the taste of luxury, right? And it was all caught by Eric.”
He’s referring to his business partner Eric Rinaldi, the last fisherman in Monaco. By the time most of us take our first sip of morning coffee, this fourth-generation Monegasque pêcheur has been out at sea for several hours in search of the catch of the day. Some days he is off shore for twenty hours doing what he does best: seasonal fishing for tuna, swordfish and other deep-sea fish.
Rinaldi’s had his own fish shop for five years before he and Ben Slama co-launched La Pêcherie U Luvassu in spring 2020, right in the heart of the Covid pandemic. “Luckily, Monaco did not close its restaurants after the first lockdown,” Ben Slama says. “We went from two tables at lunch to eventually serving 45 people.” And in three years, turnover has more than tripled and they have become the largest fishery in southeastern France.
It is easy to see why. The business associates offer a unique service to the Principality—a fishmonger with a restaurant lunch terrace steps from the yacht club, both a call and collect service and free delivery service in Monaco, as well as wholesale activity for professionals. Private chefs and yachts are their biggest clients.
At their high-tech shop, refrigerated zones are dedicated to each phase of the fishing process, from cleaning, to filleting, vacuum packing, smoking and curing as well as the ability to flash freeze. Their team is accustomed to operate world- wild port delivery.
But it is more than the poisson du jour or oysters or live crab from the tank that has won a legion of local customers and lunch fans. The highly affable Ben Slama is a true catch as front man. And he knows what he is doing: he was the man behind La Cabane de l'Écailler in Saint-Jean-Cap- Ferrat and the gourmet oyster bar at Galeries Lafayette.
“Truly fresh fish is a luxury that everyone should be able to experience,” he smiles. “And for us, it is all about the customer and conviviality. When you eat here, there is no ‘vous.’”
As the Official Supplier to Prince Albert, La Poissonnerie has a strict Boat-to-Plate traceability and the products come from responsible and sustainable sources, guaranteed wild and fished by small traditional day boats.
Rinaldi started casting at age 7 and lived for sunny mornings when he could fish before school. By age 16, he officially became a crew member on his father’s blue boat while pursuing his studies.
His dad André affectionately known as Dédé taught him how to observe the sea and the fish and their reactions, This Rinaldi family name is legendary along the shores of the French Riviera and the ports, synonymous with traditions, impeccable fishing quality and respect for resources.
Faithful to the coasts of the Principality, Rinaldi maintains his heritage with pride, perpetuating the traditions of Monegasque fishing for more than 30 years and says he still learns from his profession. “It requires dedication, agility, experience, patience and perseverance every day.”
Ben Slama adds, “We wanted to keep it simple, which is why we named it La Pêcherie U Luvassu.”
Translated from Monegasque patois, the name means The Fishery Mediterranean sea bass, which is known to be intelligent and clever. Just like Sami Ben Slama.
La Pêcherie U Luvassu
Open Monday-Saturday, 5 am to 6 pm, fish market and lunch service (dinner option also in July and August).
+377 97 77 07 51