The 1920s grocery mainstay at 13335 Monterey Hwy. in San Martin is bringing Michael “Poppy” Castelan – a third generation fisherman and former owner of Poppy’s Fish, Poultry & More in Morgan Hill – aboard Rocca’s popular delicatessen meat counter.
“Rocca’s wanted to move into seafood, so we thought we’d start at the top – which is Poppy,” said market co-owner Tom Rocca, who has been running the store alongside his brother, Dan Rocca, since 1994. “We’re both good at what we do, and we’re going to do it together now.”
After operating Poppy’s for six years, Castelan closed his fish market/restaurant more than a year ago after getting burned out, he said. The space at 30 East Third St. is now occupied by Huntington Station Sports Pub.
“I told Dan and Tom if they ever needed anything, give me a holler,” recalled Castelan, who will soon serve as Rocca’s in-house meat cutter.
Castelan’s cemented reputation as South County’s seasoned source for organic, wild and natural seafood is rooted in a family tree of salty sea dogs tracing back to 1895. His grandfather belonged to the founding community that helped establish the city of Gig Harbor on Washington’s Puget Sound.
Castelan’s family even rubbed elbows with late Captain Phil Harris of the Discovery Channel’s popular reality show “Deadliest Catch.” Harris made one stop in Northern California at Poppy’s while promoting Alaskan Amber beer as a spokesman in 2008; an occasion that drew more than 500 Morgan Hill residents and local fans.
When his new residency at Rocca’s commences March 1, Castelan plans on making regular treks to the docks in San Francisco three to four times a week. He’ll return packing an ocean’s worth of bounty such as Ahi tuna, Chilean sea bass, wild salmon, halibut and oysters – all from undisclosed sources consisting of close family ties, friendships and longstanding connections.
Buzz is already generating on Poppy’s Fish & Bistro Facebook page, where loyal patrons are posting requests for a live lobster tank (there will be one), sole, scallops and tilapia.
“We’re not changing Rocca’s at all,” reminded Castelan, who will also bring a line of all-natural, grass-fed beef to Rocca’s. “We’re adding to it.”
Upping their deli’s repertoire is consistent with the weathered market’s stronghold, Tom said, which is centered on being the go-to destination for superb meats and competitively priced wines. Rocca’s is especially known for touting a healthy spread of local reds and whites from a cache of boutique wineries scattered between Gilroy and Morgan Hill; in addition to its eclectic parade of other varietals from Paso Robles to Napa, Chile to Australia.
The store’s cornucopia of top-notch meats from an old-fashioned, cut-and- wrap meat counter is a longstanding community attraction, drawing area shoppers with flavored Italian sausage, stuffed pork chops, chicken cordon bleu, prime rib roast, four types of marinated tri-tip steak and in-house ground burger for the better part of a century.
“We want to expand our offerings. [Mike] will be working for us and with us and bringing his personality, special touch, seafood knowledge, connections and expertise on cooking and preparation in the seafood area,” said Tom over the phone Tuesday. “Both Mike and I are excited about this. It’s a really neat blend of our establishment and Mike’s clientele and expertise.”
To read a past Dispatch story featuring Rocca’s Market, click here.