The dog days of August run long, hot and hazy on the banks of the Annisquam River in Massachusetts, especially for people who spend those days working behind a stove. The only antidote: a dip in the water. A ragtag restaurant crew drinks chilled rosé and takes turns doing goofy dives off the dock, to giddy applause. Back on the deck, dinner awaits: a giant pot of smoky fish chowder, heirloom tomatoes in a warm anchovy dressing, thick pork chops piled with pickled peaches, slices of buttermilk cake filled with plump blackberries. This is a summer staff party at The Market Restaurant on Lobster Cove in the town of Gloucester.
Opened in 2010 by chef couple Nico Monday and Amelia O’Reilly, The Market is in the Annisquam neighborhood, one of those coastal destinations that make GPS devices go haywire. A faded sign on the old building, once an actual market, still says, “The Market.” But instead of live bait or lobsters in tanks, there’s a daily-changing menu written on a chalkboard behind the bar: oysters with mignonette, lobster-corn fritters, a Provençal tomato-and-Gruyère casserole called a panade. Most of the incredibly fresh ingredients were grown, fished or made within a few miles. All of it smacks of the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and for good reason: Monday and O’Reilly are Chez Panisse alums, and Monday is the godson of the restaurant’s Alice Waters.
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Monday’s parents met at Chez Panisse when they were both servers, and he grew up stealing pizza out of the wood-fired oven. As an adult, he naturally turned to cooking, working his way through kitchens in Provence and Italy and even doing a stint at Dario Cecchini’s famed Chianti butcher shop. He returned for a job as a line cook at Chez Panisse, which is where he met O’Reilly, a culinary-school grad who was working the unglamorous garde-manger shift, tasked with doing a lot of the ordering. “You get to see the workings of the restaurant that customers don’t get to see,” she says. “You know the purveyors, the people you get your polenta from, the farmers. Everyone.”