Charles Russo III, owner of Russo’s Fresh Seafood Bluffton, is a third-generation fishmonger. Since 1946, the family has made it their life’s work to serve cut-to-order fresh fish, fresh local shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, mussels, and crabmeat. Now, Russo III has a state-of-the-art facility in Bluffton where they service restaurants and retail customers from Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, and Savannah.
“This business is in my blood,” Russo said. “My family has set the standard for ‘fish excellence,’ and we have established relationships with local fishermen and seafaring folks up, down, and around the coast.”
Russo’s Fresh Seafood offers the freshest and highest quality seafood. Russo is committed to doing things pretty much the same way his father and grandfather before him did, and the dedication to quality begins at the source—the boats they buy from here locally. Russo still buys fish from the people who sold fish to his grandfather for 60 years.
“We take it off those boats and then process and sell it,” Russo explained. “At most places, the fish is cut elsewhere, then trucked or flown in, and displayed as an already fileted product. Our way is definitely more difficult and time-consuming, but people respect us for it. The way we bring it in, wash it, pack it, and care for the product in-house allows us to provide the highest quality product and experience for our customers.”
Russo is dedicated to the same level of cleanliness. “My grandfather maintained product and market sanitation,” Russo said. “When you come into the market, it’s like you’re just feet away from the sea.”
Russo learned how to filet and cut from his father and grandfather. A certain level of expertise is required to extract the bone and leave the meat, which is what the customer is expecting. At Russo’s, the fishmongers strive to leave none of the meat on the bone.
“We actually use a beef skinning knife that my grandfather found to be the perfect knife,” Russo explained. “And we cut it for the customer when they order it, even down to whole shrimp that we peel in house.”
The heaviest portion of Russo’s business is the wholesale restaurant accounts. After Russo’s fishmongers custom cut the fish for the restaurants, the orders are delivered six days a week. Prior to opening his seafood market, Russo attended culinary school Keiser University in Florida and worked for many years as a chef in Atlanta and Savannah, so he understands the importance of his role as a wholesaler.
“My background makes it easy for me to speak to others about how to cook what fish, what seasonings and oils to use, etc., and I can go into a commercial kitchen and speak to another chef about what they need. I know what quality they expect and how they want their filet to look.”
On the retail side of the business, customers can visit the store, where they’ll find one side of the market dedicated to whole fish displayed on ice. “The customer can pick fish they want,” Russo said. “We will cut it to their liking. We scale the fish, filet it, package it, and send it to the counter. While we work, they can peruse the store for all the fixin’s—spices, grits, sauces—anything that goes with seafood.”
If you are just cooking for a couple of people, you can check out the other side of the market (a quicker option) where you’ll find a variety of popular portioned and packaged fish, such as snapper or tuna. The entire staff at Russo’s is well-trained in how to cook seafood, so they are helpful when customers come in asking for recipes or cooking tips. If people are unsure of how to prepare something, they consider it a responsibility to ensure that every customer leaves with the confidence to experience the best of what they’ve spent their money on.
At Russo’s Fresh Seafood Bluffton, customers experience what buying local really means, as well as the quality products, the sanitation of the facility and the well-rounded staff, which are longstanding cornerstones of the Russo name.
Russo’s Fresh Seafood is located at 246 Red Cedar St. in Bluffton. For more information, visit russosfreshseafood.com or call (843) 837-7000.