SANDBRIDGE — Martha Gaione was 14 when she started working in the kitchen of a hospital where her mother was a nurse. At 56, you can still find her preparing delicious cuisine at her new venture, Simply Steamed on Sandpiper Road.
“The restaurant business is something you either have a passion for or you don’t,” said Gaione, who trained in Switzerland under a French chef. “It’s not for everyone. I’d watch chefs preparing food all my life. Whatever they did, they could just stick their finger in it and make it all better. I wanted to do that.”
After owning her own restaurant, Zest, for seven years, Gaione was suddenly out of a job when her lease was not renewed. She knew she wanted to stay in Sandbridge.
She also knew she needed a fresh idea to serve the small community. There were already two restaurants with offerings that range from takeout pizza to white tablecloth meals, as well as a slew of restaurants just down Sandbridge Road.
With the changing rental climate in Sandbridge, including larger homes catering to major events, she decided to craft a fresh seafood take-out venue. She created the “one pot” dinner, which includes everything needed to have a complete, healthy meal.
“People would rather have a smaller amount of company at a nicer venue for a longer amount of time, but not everyone wants to eat out or cook for 30-40 people,” Gaione said. That’s takes a specific skill.”
Being at the beach, people are always looking for fresh seafood, and that includes the people who live and work here, too. A local real estate company recently had Simply Steamed cater an event. Lisa Matthews Roland, who attended, said, “It was simply amazing. Truly – the gazpacho with crab, lobster rolls, roast beef sliders, pasta salad – all just super yummy and very fresh.”
For those who prefer to pick up the one pot meal and take it home to cook, they can get local corn on the cob, red potatoes, onions and different combinations of seafood from shrimp, clams and mussels to a variety of crabs, lobster and crawfish. A bag of spices for seasoning, sauces, butter and shellers are included. All that is needed is water, wine or beer to create the steam to cook it.
The smaller pot feeds two to three hungry people. The larger pots accommodate more. A meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
“This just seemed like the right idea, at the right place, at the right time,” Gaione said. “People love the idea of picking up dinner and not having to get the kids out of the pool.”
Emily Harris Sheipe, and interior decorator who works with clients in Sandbridge, was drawn to Simply Steamed for a lunch menu, which can be enjoyed on the deck outside the seafood market.
Sheipe went back a second time and got a pot to take home for dinner. She discovered the amount of food was more than enough for her and her husband. The leftovers made a great second meal.