Sun 14 Oct 2012
Tony’s Seafood in Marshall is known to most West Marin residents; less well known are its origins. Sitting on pilings over the water, the restaurant’s view of Tomales Bay is magnificent. So are its barbecued oysters, which feature a tomato-ey sauce that is particularly smooth and sweet.
Tony’s is the favorite restaurant of Inverness Park residents Linda Sturdivant (right) and her partner Terry Gray. Sunday was bright and clear along the bay, even warm. It was a perfect day for me to open the sunroof and drive the two of them and Lynn (left) four miles north for a seafood lunch.
Tony’s is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, from noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and this flock of seagulls appears to have learned the schedule. They paddle around the restaurant hoping that diners after eating will throw them pieces of any leftover bread or French fries.
From a deck over the water on the southeast side of the restaurant, we watched jellyfish pulsating their bells as they propelled themselves away from the shore.
Restaurant matriarch Anna Konatich takes in the sun on the deck beside the bay. She and her husband Felix, who died in 2008, were born on the Croatian island of Iz. She immigrated to the US in 1947, he in 1937. Their family opened Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in 1948.
Felix was already living in Marshall when they became reacquainted in Seattle. He was part of a wave of Croatian immigration to the area that had begun in 1900. At least 14 families from the islands of Iz and Hvar settled in the tiny town of Marshall and — as Anna reminded me Sunday — at White Gulch directly across the bay.
Anna told me there were seven children in the first grade when her daughter entered school, and “three of them were Croatian.”
When I greeted her Sunday, I asked, “How’s the rebel?” The question sparked immediate laughter. Back on Iz 20 to 30 years ago, many residents considered her a radical nationalist.
In the years between the death of Yugoslavia’s longtime Communist ruler Marshal Tito in 1980 and the fall of communism in 1990-91, Anna visited Iz several times. It was a time when Communism was enforcing severe restrictions on Catholics. On one visit, she startled others in church by singing out the traditional lyrics to a Croatian national song that had been rewritten by the Communists. “Hey, you guys,” she told the others. “You can’t let the church fall apart like this. That’s our heritage.”
(In 1991, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, and the European Economic Community in 1992 recognized Croatia as independent. The Yugoslav army and Serbian militia, however, battled the Croatian military from 1991 to 1995 in an unsuccessful attempt to partition the newly independent country.)
Outside Tony’s Seafood Restaurant after a hearty lunch are (from left) Linda Sturdivant, Terry Gray, Lynn Axelrod, Dave Mitchell.
Sometimes when I mention Marshall’s immigrant families from Croatia, I get a blank stare from other West Marin residents. “What Croatians?” they ask. In fact, they know the names. They just never realized they were Croatian.
Along with the Konatich family, who still run Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, other well-known names include the Vilicich family, who started the Marshall Boat Works in 1927, and Nick Kojich, who — with Felix Konatich’s father Tony — founded Nick’s Cove restaurant. And now you know who Tony was.