Simplicity and style serve not only as a recipe for fine dining at the Matunuck Oyster Bar, but also as a problem resolution strategy for this seaside bistro tucked away in East Matunuck.
With a booming business open seven days a week, owner Perry Raso and his staff conquer the daily issues of serving fresh fare with unpretentious grace. The newest resolution strategy engaged? Valet parking ordered up by the boss and delivered fresh to all patrons of the Matunuck Oyster Bar...on the house. A simple solution applied to a simple problem, executed with little drama and an ocean of style.
Patch caught up with Karen West of the Valet Connection, whose attendants will be servicing Matunuck Oyster Bar patrons. “Due to its increased popularity, parking has become somewhat of a challenge," she said. "We were happy to come on board to map out a parking plan that involves valet service, in order to maximize parking lot space.”
As a preemptive strike to the busy season, Raso began providing valet parking for patrons two weekends ago. “We’re starting with Friday and Saturday," West said. "During the busy season, we will increase the valet service days. The weekend was extremely successful. Everything ran very smoothly, with no parking issues, no problems at all. It was great.”
When owner Raso launched his foray into the restaurant world in 2009, he proceeded with cautious optimism - he knew that other ventures sitting on the quiet estuary at 629 Succotash Road had not fared well.
His vision, providing a local and bountiful harvest to his clientele in an unpretentious setting, sharing the fruits of his own labor as well as those of his colleagues, with locals and summertime tourists, soon took flight. Born of his love of aquaculture and grown from the bounty of his own Matunuck Oyster Farm, nestled nearby in the adjacent Potter’s Pond, the Matunuck Oyster Bar has so far been an enormous success.
Reminiscent of local cottages, the unassuming venue is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Never destined to be a year-round establishment, Raso was humbled to find the local population knocking on the door after Labor Day in 2009, returning day after day to enjoy fresh shellfish, daily catch and local harvest. Choosing to stay open “a little while longer”, Raso soon found himself as a bona-fide restaurateur open 363 days a year.
An entrepreneur since youth, Raso started his business digging clams, bullraking and diving in local waters. Hailing from Long Island, Raso moved to South Kingstown as a child, attending Matunuck Elementary and wrestling as a Rebel for South Kingstown High School. After graduating, he attended the University of Southern Connecticut, then the University of Northern Colorado, where he continued wrestling until the program was cut.
Raso returned to Rhode Island and entered the University of Rhode Island College of Environmental and Life Sciences, studying Marine Biology and entering the Fisheries program. He later obtained a B.S. in Aquaculture and Fisheries technology.
It was home at URI and surrounded by the sea where Raso chose to harbor his career in aquaculture. Launched by a suggestion from one of his professors, Dr. Michael A. Rice, Raso attended an aquaculture conference during his senior year in college and was hooked. Applying for a grant through the Reed Aquaculture Initiative, Raso entered into a three-year educational program designed to bring awareness and increase acceptance of aquaculture in Rhode Island. Raso chose oyster farming and cultivation, an established and viable business and embarked on his first aquaculture lease with 1.3 acres in Potter's Pond
Teaching aquaculture awareness in local schools,while nurturing his infant oyster farm, Raso started bringing students, educators and later tourists out to the farm through the grant initiative. From this initiative grew the now established Matunuck Oyster Farm educational tours, conducted by Raso, always advocating the necessity and benefits of aquaculture farming in the Ocean State.
Explaining his preference for being out on the water and the farm, , Raso interceded with a lesson. “Aquaculture is agriculture. It is important that people understand they are the same. Aquaculture increases biodiversity in our waters. Cultivating oysters, placing millions of oysters in aquaculture farms in waters around the state, is a benefit. Oysters clean the water. It’s safe to say that where there is aquaculture, there are more animals.”
The Matunuck Oyster Farm has grown into a seven acre benefit to Potter’s Pond in just under a decade, now supplying local restaurants, farmer’s markets and more with fresh Rhode Island oysters. The acquisition of the restaurant in 2009, just a natural extension of Raso’s dedication to local agriculture, has been an adventure. Hopping a boat for a tour of the farm, one is instantly struck with the thought that Raso is indeed at home in these waters, travelling between restaurant and farm.
When you come to East Matunuck, hand over your keys, belly up to the raw bar, enjoy the diverse wine selection, have an ice cold beer, sample native grown Rhody Oysters, shellfish and locally grown fare. The Matunuck Oyster Bar under the keen eye of owner, Perry Raso, is once again raising the bar for its loyal patrons.
What’s next for Mr. Raso? A terrestrial farm is on the agenda. “That’s what I’m thinking. I’d like to have my own terrestrial, land-based farm.”