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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015

The Tringali clan: From left to right, Giuseppe Catania, Carmelo Tringali, Christine Tringali, Robbie Torrise and Christine Torrise. www.ediblemontereybay.com 41 The Story of Salvatore Tringali Salvatore Tringali was born in the port town of Augusta, in Eastern Sicily. During his childhood in the early 1900s the entire island was still recovering from the political turmoil that ensued after the unification of Italy in 1861. Financial pressure from the North, heavy taxes and a failed legal system had given rise to the Mafia and all but destroyed the Sicilian economy. Like many young Sicilians, and much to the chagrin of his father, Tringali saw no future in Sicily and decided to try his luck in America. After landing on Ellis Island, Tringali made his way to Detroit. Accustomed to the mild Mediterranean climate, he found the winter unbearably cold and windy. The following spring, inspired by frequent letters exchanged with a cousin living in San Francisco, Tringali decided to journey west toward California. He caught a glimpse of the American dream in San Francisco. He found gainful work on a fishing boat and invested much of his earnings in Bank of America stock. Within a few years, with the economy booming and his stocks soaring, he and his cousin planned to buy a small market together. By the summer of 1929 Tringali had almost enough in stock to buy the market. He reasoned that if the uptrend in stock prices continued, it would only be a few months before he could purchase the market and start building a secure future for his young family. But on Oct. 24,1929 the stock market crashed, shattering Tringali’s dreams of buying a business. Suddenly disenamored with the city, he moved his family south to the small fishing town of Monterey. Once again, Tringali began to build his fortune from the bottom. He made enough money working as a fisherman to build his own small boat. Fishing was productive during those years, and soon he had saved enough to build a larger vessel. By 1940 he was a well-established local fisherman living in Monterey and running his own boat. That all changed, however, in 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and America went to war. Suddenly, Italians were considered a security threat, and many were exiled from the coastal areas. In fact, Tringali’s wife and son were ordered to move 20 miles from the coast for six months. Because Tringali was a U.S. citizen, he was allowed to stay in Monterey to fish, but the U.S. government confiscated his boat for use by the military for patrolling the coast. In return, they offered him a $10,000 IOU but no means to continue fishing. Many local Sicilian fishermen headed to Seattle where they could rent boats, but it was difficult to make a living there while paying a high price for the boat and equipment. (Owning a boat or cannery in Monterey was an important status symbol and class indicator. One could not build wealth by working; they had to own and invest. This made losing one’s boat all the more painful.) Later that same year, once again starting over, Tringali founded Monterey Fish Co. Despite many obstacles to overcome, neither the sardine collapse of the mid-1950s nor various financial challenges could derail his dreams and ambition. He became a pioneer of the modern seafood exporting business and built some of the area’s first freezers. Since its inception as a small local seafood market, three generations of Tringalis built the business into an international exporter of squid, sardines and other seafood, which now owns the brands: Sea Wave, Bono and Surf King. Despite the growth of the company, now based in Salinas, you can still experience its history and soul at the original family-run seafood market at the end of the Municipal Wharf, which Tringali’s grandson, Sal, runs. You can also visit the nearby Wharf Marketplace, where Sal’s brother-in-law, Robbie, owner of Robbie’s Ocean Fresh Seafood, operates a retail fish counter. In fact, if you explore the historic wharf, you can find many descendants, relatives and friends of Salvatore Tringali keeping Monterey’s venerable seafood industry alive. —JC Monterey Fish Co. End of Wharf #2, Monterey • 831.656.9505 Wharf Marketplace 290 Figueroa St. • 831.649.1116 www.thewharfmarketplace.com


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015
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