Tony Macaroni's Conch Experience
Tony Macaroni's World Famous Conch Experience at Taino Beach in Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas is known for some of the best conch and fish dishes on the island for 22 years. What started as a humble thatch-roofed hut on the sand, has gone through several transformations over the years, most in part to hurricanes Sandy and Jean. Today Tony Macaroni's still provides one of the best local beach scenes, a thatch-roofed hut is still there, but now it's situated on stilts and has a large deck overlooking pristine sands and sea. Sand in your shoes or toes is now optional.
Proprietor, Anthony ' Tony Macaroni' Hanna is a 2003 Ministry of Tourism Cacique Award recipient, taking the highest honour, 'The Minister's Award.' Hanna explains how it all got started, "I used to have lunch almost daily at 'Billy Joes' the beach restaurant which still operates today beside the Memories Resort property. When I found out that I had an opportunity to start another business and could have space in Count Basie Square near the main dock I went to John Gilbert (Billy Joe) and asked his permission to use his recipe for Grilled Conch, but I would change the name and ingredients, and thus my Roast Conch was born."
"My business started in Port Lucaya, where I catered mainly to the Big Red Boat and the many tourists that came in from the ship for the day. In those days, Port Lucaya was Port Lucaya!" said Hanna.
"I was later forced out by the three main eateries at the time. A few days later I found myself at Surfside Restaurant out at Taino Beach with some visitors that wanted "conch salad". One thing led to the next... and it wasn't long before I was set up out on the beach with my hut. Two years after that I traveled to Washington D.C representing the City of Freeport with my cooking at the "Festival of the Americas".
"People who helped me in those first years were the late Ron Darville, who owned and operated The Lobster Reef Restaurant in Port Lucaya, David Thompson (Sen.), the late George Munroe, who owned and operated Surfside Restaurant, the Minister of Tourism at the time, C.A. Smith, and my friends Eugenia Yeuell and Fred Smith. Through years that came next to the present, there have been many who have supported me. This was evident in 2004 and again in 2005 when the three "ladies" hit." The hurricanes totally demolished Tony's hut and swept it out to sea. It was Freeport's founder, Edward St. George who through the help of Fred Smith provided Hanna with the funding to rebuild, and through that rebuilding, Hanna moved his hut up and off the sand to be secured for future storms.
Tony Macaroni's conch salad is world renown, but his specialty is his roast conch which is cooked over an open fire. His popular eatery also offers roast lobster, fish and shrimp, and he serves the Bahamian cultural drink, Gullywash (green coconut water, sweetened condensed milk, and gin).
Hanna reminisces on how the drink Gullywash came about, "Back in the old days in the out Islands after a day or two of fishing, the fishermen would gather together under a coconut tree and fill a tub or large bucket with the water of the coconuts. There were no bars or liquor stores as we know them today, so the "brew" was homemade "Gin". During those days the Catholic Church provided its congregation with powdered milk, cheese, butter and sweet condensed milk. The latter was secured from the house without the wife's permission, to add to the coconut water. Each fisherman would empty his gin or rum into the batch, and this brew was called the "gullet wash". The tradition was to "wash the salt from ones gullet". Thus, "Gullywash"! A song was written about this mixture back in the late forties which goes, "Coconut Water Rum and Gin, that is Bahamian Vitamin."
The King of Conch! Over the years Tony Macaroni's Conch Experience has been featured on many international TV shows, magazines, and music videos. Tony Macaroni is also known for his "Conch 101" demonstrations where he walks school students, tourists and visitors through the life-cycle of the conch, and demonstrates how the large sea snail delicacy is properly and easily removed from its beautiful pink shell.
Sunday evenings from 5pm onward Tony Macaroni's offers a musicians jam or the popular Jazz on the Beach featuring Ralph Munnings on sax, along with Patrick Boston on keyboards. They is often a bonfire provided on the beach.
Tony has had many local and international celebrities visit or perform on the deck over the years: Fred Ferguson of Baha Men, Veronica Bishop, Marvin Henfield, Phil Stubbs, Ralph Munnings, Johnny Kemp, Cyril 'Dry Bread' Ferguson, Joe 'Kinky' Fox, Steve Davies, Steven Colebrooke, Obie Pindling of Visage, David Mackey of The T-Connection, New York's Blues Queen and Blues Hall of Famer, Roxy Perry and American actor Ving Rames, as well as Deon Estus of WHAM!
Known for his hospitality, quick wit and island charm, many of Tony Macaroni's foreign patrons revisit Grand Bahama again and again just to hang out at the idyllic location which looks out to sea. People also arrive by boat, local volleyball teams gather to play on the sand beside the deck, and parents can sit up above and keep a reasonable eye on their children playing on the sand below, or Tony offers his guests lawn chairs to enjoy the beach. The Taino Beach children's playground is right across the road, which sits below the Edward St. George memorial site.
When the day is done and his guests belly's are full, Tony offers them a conch shell to take home to remember their adventure. Accolades pour in on his Facebook page from those that have visited from all over the world. One tourist remarked, " I love this place! We can't wait to get back to Taino Beach and stay for a week. Thanks for the great info Tony. Enjoyed the Gullywash, the roast conch and the shell. It doesn't get any better than this.......We will be back!"