A dining gem tucked away on scenic Gwynn’s Island
by Tom Hardin
“Why is every table taken and people lined up outside the door waiting to get in?”
That’s the question that ran through my mind as my wife Bev and I were waiting to be seated at the Seabreeze restaurant on Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County one Friday evening in June.
I soon found out . . . good food at reasonable prices with a great view of Milford Haven.
There’s nothing fancy about the Seabreeze. Its customers are a mix of locals and summer visitors of all ages. The dress code is what I call “laid-back boating attire.” T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops are everywhere, as are smiling faces, happy chatter, and plates full of fried and grilled seafood.
Our waitress recommended the soft-shell crabs, crab cakes or scallops. I was tempted to get my favorite—the fried seafood platter—but I opted for the “Seabreeze Specialty Crab Cakes” with a dinner salad, green beans and hush puppies. Bev got the fried scallops. We were pleased with the portions and the quality.
I had read online that the Seabreeze’s seafood bisque was excellent. I ordered a bowl and wolfed it down. I have to say it rates with the best soups I’ve ever eaten. I could have made a meal on just the bisque and hush puppies.
For dessert, we split a piece of delicious homemade coconut cream pie.
“All our seafood is fresh and most of it is local,” said restaurant manager Leanna Galluzzi, whose parents, Gary and Noelle Galluzzi, own the Seabreeze. Leanna’s sister Dannielle is assistant manager and also cooks.
“Our busiest time is May through August when people start coming down to visit, but we are able to remain open year-around because of the support of our local customers,” said Leanna.
In addition to all types of seafood, the dinner entrees include Delmonico, country fried and hamburger steak, fried and marinated chicken, and liver with onions. There also is a kids menu.
There are “seafood baskets” for lunch or dinner, a variety of salads, a long list of sandwiches, and numerous side dishes–all very reasonably priced.
The breakfast menu ranges from the standard two eggs with bacon-or-sausage and toast ($4.25), to pancakes and French toast ($3.75).
The menu is the same as in the past. “Why change something that is working?” he asked.
The previous owners, Mary and the late Ralph Valdrighi of Mathews, bought the restaurant in 1979 when it was named The Haven Grille. They changed the name to Seabreeze and ran a thriving business there for over 30 years.
The restaurant, which is a stone’s throw from the water of Milford Haven, was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and rebuilt by the Valdrighi family.
If You Go
384 Old Ferry Rd.
Mathews, VA 23109
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Friday, Saturday, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
On the Menu
The menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Sandwiches, salads, appetizers, baskets (with fries and hush puppies), steaks and more.
Kids menu available.
Did you know?
In its early years, the Seabreeze restaurant used a portion of its building as a bait and tackle shop since most of its patrons were watermen, anglers and boaters.
Gary and Noelle live in Booton, New Jersey, which is close to New York City. They own a helicopter company and Gary is a helicopter pilot. Several years ago he was flying over the Chesapeake Bay area and spotted Mathews County, and decided that is where he wanted to live and eventually retire. About 10 years ago he began bringing his family to Gwynn’s Island for summer vacations. And, of course, they became regular patrons of the Seabreeze. So, when the Seabreeze became available, they bought it.
Gary said future plans include adding outdoor seating in the grassy area in front of the restaurant, and installing outside lighting so outdoor events can be held there.
The front room of the Seabreeze has a long 12-seat table that was built by Mr. Valdrighi and was about the only thing in the restaurant to survive the wrath of Isabel. This table has been a community hub for over 30 years as local watermen and islanders frequently gather there to discuss the latest happenings.
In front of the restaurant is a concrete boat landing that is owned by the county and leased to the state. The Seabreeze also has a pier for boaters to “dock and dine.”
Inside, nautical decor and old framed water-related photos and news clippings add to the cozy atmosphere.
After dinner Bev and I drove the two-lane road through Gwynn’s Island and marveled at the beauty of the surrounding Piankatank River, Chesapeake Bay and Milford Haven. No wonder people want to retire, visit—and dine—on this little piece of paradise.