The state of New York has about 130 miles of coastline, and damn near all of it is located here, on Long Island. Which stretches from Brooklyn & Queens to the west, all the way out Montauk — the “end of the world” in the east. It’s divided by parkways, and by heated debates over just about everything, from best beaches to go to, to the best high school lacrosse teams, to the best back-catalogue Billy Joel songs. But there are two things that pretty much every Long Islander can agree on: hating the Rangers, and loving local oysters. So we headed “out east” to meet up with some born-and-raised Long Islanders who have deep, deep connections with this slippery shellfish. First up: Chris Quartuccio. He’s a South Shore native who offered to show us how Long Islanders have been harvesting oysters for decades: diving for them by hand in the Long Island Sound. Which means, we’ve got a boat to catch. -You really don’t see oyster diving taking place in other states, you know? A lot of states on the East Coast just don’t have wild oysters. But, you know, we have some natural reefs off the North Shore of Long Island, that consistently have wild oysters on them. But they’re very difficult to find. The guys who do dive on these oysters, they spend a lot of time looking for those spots. Most of the divers I know, they’ve been working on the water since they were a kid. Anyone new getting into this business, it’s very challenging for them, because they just don’t know where the oysters are. Sometimes, the oysters are thick, and there’s a lot on one spot. Other times, you gotta swim really far, you know, to fill a bag up with 50, 60 oysters. Because they’re constantly swimming around. These oysters we have here, they’re called “Naked Cowboy” oysters. We came up with the name “Naked Cowboy” oysters because we figured a badass, wild diver-harvested oyster needs a badass name. This is a wild oyster, it’s got a pretty thick shell, so it’s pretty easy to shuck. What’s great about nature is, with these oysters, they gave us a nice little, uh, hinge there, to put the knife into. When I go to open this oyster, it’s doing everything it possibly can to keep me from opening it up. -Look at that seawater popping right outta there! -So what we like to do is something called the “Philadelphia flip.” We take the oyster and we flip it over like that. Now the underbelly, you can see it, where it’s nice, fatter & plumper. When we consume this, it’s still alive. This is about as close to hunting, and gathering, and killing your food as there is. -Wow, that was a plump one. -The divers will come in at the end of the day, they’ll bring ‘em back to Blue Island. They’re going to sort them, wash them, grade them. They’re gonna get them restaurant-ready so we can ship these Naked Cowboy oysters all around the country. -So how many of these coolers do you have? -We have three coolers. We have Larry, Moe, and Curly. That’s how we keep them separated. This stuff gets shipped all over North America. A lot of this stuff is gonna be going into New York tomorrow. -That’s if they, if the divers bring them in, but you guys also farm oysters here, right? -Our oyster farm is about 10 miles southwest of here. Those oysters come from seed that we produce here, in our West Sayville facility. We take them out to the farm, then it’s an 18- to 24-month process to get them up to market size. -I hear Lizzy is in charge of that, right? -Yeah, that’s where she spends a lot of her time, in the algae room. -The oysters in the Great South Bay were over-harvested. And then we had toxic algae blooms come in, and they would wipe out the good algae blooms. So if the oysters have nothing to eat, then they’re gonna starve, or they’re gonna suffocate because all the bad algae starting to die release ammonia into the water. So nothing survives. -So, this is basically oyster food. -It is our algae lab. And it’s where we cultivate the algae to feed the oysters when our bay water isn’t optimal. So in our hatchery, what we do is we “force-spawn” them. Life begins in the maternity ward. We keep the newborn larvae in there. From the day an oyster is spawned, it takes about two months for them to reach half an inch, which is seed size. Then it goes out into the farms, and they’re there for two years. The oysters that are at the farm, that are in the cages right now, are eating our waste. They like the phosphates and the nitrates. So they’re eating all of that, consuming it, and what they’re putting out is actually beneficial to the area. -Yeah, so that’s good for the whole bay. -Oh it’s great for the whole bay. It’s the only way, really, to clean our bays. I was born and raised on Long Island, so I’ve been around shellfish my whole life. My dad did oysters when I was little. They’re my babies. -We’ve seen how you dive for oysters on the North Shore in the Long Island Sound, we’ve seen how you farm oysters on the South Shore in the Great South Bay, but now, we have to do the most important thing: eat some of these things. So we’re meeting up with local restaurateur and Blue Island customer Bobby Gulinello, to see these things at their very finest: on the half shell. -We get all of our oysters from Blue Island Oyster farm. We are always going to have one or two different varieties of oysters on, they’re always gonna be fresh. We are able to get them in smaller quantities because I skateboard up the road to pick them up. We’re right by the Great South Bay. The reason oysters were an important thing for me when I opened up South Shore Dive, one is because I personally enjoy oysters. Especially as a kid, I remember going with my dad, and we would go to these like little fish markets. We would always get a dozen oysters, we’d sit on top of one of the little wood pylons, and we’d shuck oysters with some fresh lemon. They were always local. These, these oysters come from the Steamboat Channel Oyster Company, the guys are New York City firefighters that live in Bay Shore, and we get their oysters from Blue Island Oyster Farm. The beers that we have in front of us are from Montauk Brewing Company, and you’re drinking a Greenport Tidal Lager. You know, I know these guys. These guys come in my bar. They drink beer. -They eat oysters. -They eat oysters! Uh, there’s not a lot of things left that are as pure as a fresh oyster, and especially an oyster that is from right up the road. Oysters are like the last bastion of food transparency. You go out, go into the water, dive down, pick ‘em out of the sand, you clean them off, bring them to me, and we open them up and we eat them. It doesn’t get more transparent than that. This is it. This is Long Island. You’re eating and drinking Long Island, right here.