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Owen's Fish Camp co-owner shares the secret sauce behind the second location

Who says lightning doesn't strike twice? Paul Caragiulo shares how he and his brothers brought one of Sarasota's favorite restaurants to Lakewood Ranch.

Paul Caragiulo is part of the winning team that reinvented Owen’s Fish Camp for Lakewood Ranch.
Paul Caragiulo is part of the winning team that reinvented Owen’s Fish Camp for Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Lori Sax
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As restaurateurs, Paul, Mark and Rob Caragiulo are like a rock band that keeps pumping out the hits. 

One of their hits, Owen’s Fish Camp, launched in 2010 in downtown Sarasota and quickly shot up to the top of the charts. They did it again when they opened a second Fish Camp last year in Lakewood Ranch

This version fosters an Adirondack-style lake house vibe, a large outdoor entertainment area and a menu filled with flopping fresh fish, Creole gumbo, fried soft-shell crabs, shrimp and grits and a myriad of other Southern country-style chow. And, just like its Sarasota sibling, be prepared to wait a while for a table, especially during season. (Trust us; it’s worth the wait.) 

Paul Caragiulo recently shared what it was like launching a new hit for new fans.

The secret of our success…

Is pretty simple. We give people a reason to want to be here. We created the kind of restaurant where you want to hang out. We’ve succeeded in keeping customers happy because we have very, very excellent people working with us. 

The core concept behind our Lakewood Ranch location is…

Location, location, location. It’s an outdoorsy picnic spot — a beautiful, oak hammock location. And our amazing outdoor area wasn’t an afterthought; it’s a principal component of our Lakewood Ranch concept. That wasn’t part of our Sarasota concept, but that’s what works here. There’s more going on here than at our original location, and that really reflects our connection to nature. That’s evolved over time. When we first got here, there wasn’t a tree on the property. We planted every mature oak you can see — all nine of them. We knew we couldn’t just replicate the culture of our first location. Lakewood Ranch is a new canvas — and the culture we’ve created here reflects that.

There are no formal titles or roles; we all do whatever needs to be done. 

We don’t have a very corporate atmosphere. In my role, I balance large logistical challenges and daily details. The hospitality industry is like staging a set and putting on a production. That’s my favorite analogy. It’s show business.

Owen's Fish Camp fosters an Adirondack-style lake house vibe.
Photo by Lori Sax
I balance owning three restaurants…

Very carefully. (laughs) Seriously, we’re a large family, and that helps. Everybody’s willing to do exactly what needs to be done. That’s what it all comes down to. (The Caragiulos also own Caragiulos, an iconic downtown Sarasota restaurant.)

My favorite dish at Owen’s is…

Catfish. I eat that every time I eat here.

Don’t leave Owen’s without trying…

Oh, that’s easy — the fish spread. And you’ve got to try our pickles. 

Aside from our restaurants, my favorite go-to places are…

 FushiPoke, Apollonia Grill, and La Mucca Ballerina. 

If I could hop on a plane and go anyplace on earth for a meal, the restaurant I’d choose is…

Trattoria La Buca di Zibello, a great place just outside of Parma. 

My chef heroes are…

Marcella Hazan, Jamie Oliver, and my mother and my grandmother. The restaurant business is a family affair for a lot of people. That’s definitely true in our family.

When I’m not working, I’m…

Well, this morning I went turkey hunting. I love to do that. I spend most of my free time outside. 



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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