Chattanooga chef Matt Greene lets the catfish out of the bag with his Italian-inspired dish
The edges of the Tennessee river once bustled with a thriving fishing industry. Over the years, as pollution and a high volume of barge traffic filled the waterway, that industry died off, leaving once-prized species like catfish with the stigma of coming from a beleaguered source.
Since then, there have been significant efforts to clean the waterway, but executive chef of Chattanooga’s Common House Matt Greene says, “when we started looking around, we didn’t see catfish on a single menu.”
He couldn’t find any nearby purveyors, either—until he discovered a family of local fishermen under the name DC’s Fish Market. Fishing directly from the Tennessee River, the team processes their catch and ships it off to chefs around the US. Greene saw an opportunity to re-introduce the firm-fleshed fish to Chattanooga diners. This time, though, with an Italian twist.
Set inside a circa 1929 building marked by its Italian Renaissance revival style of architecture, Common House (a members-only co-working space with its own restaurant) maintains a design aesthetic inspired by the bones of the building with lots of terra cotta tile, white plaster throughout, and splashes of natural light.
On the menu, Greene leans into Italian technique but marries in Eastern Tennessee’s distinctly Appalachian roots.
Once a whole-animal butcher at Brooklyn’s the Meat Hook, and later his own shop JM Stock Provisions in Charlottesville, Virginia, Greene is committed to using locally sourced proteins. “The family at DC’s was one of the few who were really carrying the torch of the local fishing industry and we really wanted to support them,” he says.
He’s found a following for it, too—fans flock for his variation on a traditional milanese, in which he pounds and breads catfish filets and serves them over a bean and cucumber salad. A swipe of olive-brined aïoli completes the plate. “It’s a great representation of what we’re trying to do here,” he says.
GET THE CATFISH MILANESE RECIPE
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Julia Miller
- by Robin Roenker
- by Maggie Ward