HAPPY TO BE BACK IN ACTION, A MONMOUTH COUNTY BARTENDER MIXES DUAL CAREERS TO CREATE HAPPINESS, PLUS SUPER TASTY LIBATIONS

BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC

With its extra-large patio and bar, the friendly ambiance of Cuzin’s Seafood Clam Bar proved an ideal setting for a breath of fresh air, along with tasty food and drinks, as summer began and COVID-19 restrictions eased. Guests eagerly sought out bartender Paul Saraiva, who was equally enthusiastic about welcoming them back and getting the party started.

Saraiva has been with Cuzin’s since it opened in 2016, the latter instantly garnering popularity for its atmosphere and heaping variety of fresh seafood dishes. The afternoon Seafood Happy Hour featuring shrimp, oysters, and clams, bar pies, $8 premium drinks, and a DJ on Thursday nights also help to reel in crowds.

“It seems like everyone knows everybody here,” the mixologist said. “It’s a family-like atmosphere. I don’t feel like I’m at work.”

For Saraiva, one could say mixing drinks is in his blood. Among his three brothers, his younger brother, Daniel, is a bartender at the Headliner in Belmar and his older brother, David, slings drinks at Porta in Asbury Park (the siblings enjoy swapping recipes). Saraiva’s service career began in college when he started waiting tables at the Grand Marquis banquet hall in Old Bridge before moving into a bartending role at Mr. East in Roselle.

His other area of expertise is wrestling, in which he excelled while attending Marlboro High School and Middlesex County College, earning a starting position and nabbing multiple awards. He graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a minor in public health in 2015. “I was never a nine-to-five guy,” he said, adding his college degree is a safety net. Today he is co-owner of Rhino Wrestling Club in Morganville, for those age five to 18.

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“I trained there while in high school. Three years ago, I had the opportunity with a friend to take it over. That’s why I like the bar (working hours). When the wrestling school happened, it was independence.”

He feels he’s now living his dream life, which includes being a homeowner, but working at Cuzin’s is also like being at home for the gregarious mixologist. He finds it stress free and enjoys engaging with his customers, especially those who sit at the bar.

“I always think they’re open to conversation,” said Saraiva, who strives to give guests a first-rate experience that keeps them coming back. He prides himself on remembering cocktail orders and being an open-minded conversationalist in addition to his mixology expertise. A summery fan favorite is the Strawberry Blossom Martini, made with Tito’s vodka, elder flower liqueur, and strawberry puree with a splash of lemon juice.

The fresh drink flavors provide ideal accompaniments to Cuzin’s expansive menu, which also offers pastas and landlubber delights. Popular picks include Whole Maine Lobster prepared three ways, the Lobster Roll, raw bar favorites, and a medley of shell fish, starters, salads, and fresh fish fillet dishes.

While awaiting your favorite to arrive at your table, we recommend sipping on Saraiva’s signature drink, the Kentucky Sweet Tea Mojito, perfect for a hot afternoon or evening of delicious fun.

Cuzin’s Seafood Clam Bar
130 S. Main Street (Rt. 79) / Marlboro /
732.780.2526 / bestclambar.com