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Cod fry for you: Seafood joint coming to Ridge riffs on Bon Jovi

Ready to rock: Renae Holland is bringing her Smorgasburg seafood concept — named in a nod to rocker Jon Bon Jovi — to Bay Ridge.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

There’s a hunger burning in the heart of their souls — for fried anchovies.

Bon Chovie — the Smorgasburg purveyor of fried anchovies and delicious nod to rocker Jon Bon Jovi — is opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in what was Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe’s Bay Ridge storefront in October. The owner looked for space in Williamsburg, but couldn’t find reasonable rent in the too-hot-to-handle-with-kid-gloves ’hood.

But Bay Ridge, with its restaurant-laden Third Avenue, presented the perfect mix of exposure and affordability, the owner said.

“I knew the neighborhood, and when this opportunity came about, it just felt right,” said owner Renae Holland, who has lived in Bay Ridge but now resides in Red Hook. “And I think the barrier to entry in other neighborhoods is lower than Williamsburg or Crown Heights or all these other neighborhoods that are blowing up. You can still find affordable rent for a start-up.”

The restaurant will focus on simple, fresh fish dishes, including salmon burgers, fish tacos, and lobster rolls. Of course, Holland will stick to her guns and sling the fried “Jersey-style” anchovies that made the biz famous, she said.

The eatery won’t be a dry county, either, so if you’re mouth is running dry, they’ll have beer and wine (though, not bitter) on tap, Holland said.

Bon Chovie started at Brooklyn Flea and then moved to Smorgasburg, where it enjoyed runaway success.

Holland got hooked up with Zito’s after she took her concept to the Coney Island Smorgasburg earlier this year. She needed a commercial kitchen in southern Brooklyn to do food prep, and Zito’s was renting out space. The storefront seating wasn’t working out for Zito’s, so the owner decided to split the shop with Holland.

Bon Chovie is taking front stage, but you can still get a meatball parm or Sicilian Panelle, a Zito’s manager said.

“We’ll still be doing our food — just delivery and catering,” said manager Scott Flannery.

The new restaurant’s name references the ’80s arena rocker, but that’s about as far as the connection goes. To keep things tasteful, menu items won’t make reference to Bon Jovi lyrics, so don’t expect your monkfish, dipping sauce, and wine to have a clever name like “when you get monk, aoili be the wine.”

Bon Jovi did not respond to a request for comment, but he told food blog Grub Street that he dug the Bon Chovie concept in a 2011 interview.

“I love that!” Bon Jovi said. “But son of a gun, he’s stealing my gig. Okay, in lieu of payment for trademark infringement, I’ll just have him come work at Soul Kitchen [Bon Jovi’s restaurant]. Can you arrange that?”

Holland read the article and fired off a few tweets offering to lend a culinary hand at the rocker’s New Jersey joint, but she never heard back. Still, Bon Jovi owns a house in Dyker Heights, so Holland isn’t ruling out the possibility he’ll drop by.

“That would be my dream,” said Holland, who said she’s a big fan of the iconic frontman. “I need to meet this guy. I’m really hoping to grow this thing where its successful and have a couple of shops, and then he can swoop in and invest and take it to the next level.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Little bit of Sole: Bon Chovie is known for its fried anchovies, but when the store opens in Bay Ridge, it will have a slew of seafood options.
Photo by Tom Callan

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