May: Branzino–Fire Roasted on the Grill!

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Buon giorno!

This is one of those “looks complicated – but  easy slide” dishes that makes you look like the hero/heroine of the patio scene. BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL is a dish you’ll want to eat and serve over and over during the grilling season. What? A whole fish – I can’t do that! O yeah – O yeah – you CAN!

Growing up, I ate a lot of fish from both fresh water and sea. My father, Attilio, was not only an avid and committed fisherman – but he also knew how to cook each and every type of fish he brought home to us.  He cleaned and filleted his fish in seconds with surgical finesse and artistry. He taught me, but I never could master his speed and precision. He often served his fish whole and grilled. Not having access to Branzino, we frequently enjoyed Striped Bass and Bluefish – fresh caught off the beach at Cape Cod during the summers.

So what is Branzino anyway? Branzino (plural – Branzini) is actually referred to as the “sea bass” of the Mediterranean. It was touted as the “fish of the year” in the New York Times for 2012. It is slim and silvery – a beautiful fish really. It used to be that you would see it on the menu as a special entry at only the finest Italian restaurants. Thankfully, it is now available to all of us through our local fish markets in generous supply. It is often served whole. It is meaty and takes the high temperatures of the grill well.


Whole? Really? Uh-huh! The whole Branzino of about a pound to a pound and a quarter is the perfect size for 2. Most fishmongers now carry it. It definitely can be found at Whole Foods.

How to prep this thing? So you have found your Branzino at the market. What now? Ask your fishmonger to scale it, remove fins, gut it, and clean it for you, leaving the head and the tail on. The rest is easy. When you get it home – give it a rinse in and out and pat it dry. That’s it! Now you’re ready to cook it.

The Cookin! Although you could easily bake this fish in the oven, it is sooooo perfect for the grill. It responds quickly to a smokin’ hot fire, cooking through very rapidly, delivering a tasty, tender, white meat. The fun is in the flavoring.

This recipe: I used just a few fresh ingredients for this FIRE ROASTED BRANZINO –  combining fresh garlic, orange, tarragon, fennel, and scallions. To add perfection to perfection, I recommend using your best and favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I used a beautiful Greek Koroneiki Extra Virgin from Virgin California Olive Oil Company.


The result: Your beautiful Branzino cooks in a flash and makes a show stopping presentation served whole at the table. Just reach inside and carefully lift the backbone which pulls out easily. That’s it! This is so easy and quick to prepare, you won’t believe it. You’ll make this easy BRANZINO – part of your grilling repertoire for the coming season.

Fire up the grill!


Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: approx. 10 minutes


1 Whole Branzino (about 1 lb.) (plural – Branzini)

Your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Make it a good one!

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

2 Garlic Cloves – chopped

1 Fennel Bulb, cleaned and sliced

Fresh Tarragon Sprigs

Several Fresh Orange Slices

Juice of 1/2 Fresh Orange

Chopped Fresh Scallions for garnish


Ask your fishmonger to take the scales off your Branzino, remove the fins, and clean out the inside (gut).

Prepare your grill fire. I recommend soaking and using some wood chips to create good smoke.

Rinse off your fish and pat it dry.

Drizzle the fish inside and out with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Salt and pepper the inside.

Holding the fish open, sprinkle in the garlic and lay some fennel, orange slices, and tarragon sprigs inside as well.

Squeeze the orange inside the fish. Close the fish and drizzle some of the orange on the outside.


Place your stuffed Branzino on a grilling pan with holes or in a grilling basket. Lay the extra fennel and orange slices on the pan also as they will be delicious grilled and charred. Drizzle them also with some of the oil, orange juice, salt and pepper.

When the fire is hot and your wood is smoking – place your grilling pan on the grill and close it.


Roast it for about 6 minutes – turn over and grill for another 6 minutes  on the other side.

Garnish with fresh chopped scallions and orange slices.

Serve your beautiful BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL with a crisp Pinot Grigio!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. Very familiar with this Mediterranean specialty and wish I could get it where I live. Just have to make do with what is local. Your grilling method, though, is perfect for lots of fish.

    • Very definitely, Jovina! This method and choice of ingredients would apply to a number of different types of fish.

  2. Marti Faytko says:

    I’ve had Brazino at a restaurant and it was delicious. If I prepare this at home, what is the purpose of leaving the head and tail on? Is it for presentation? I’ve never looked a fish in the eye…

    • Marti – LOL! Stare that sucker down! You can do it! Seriously – it is a presentation thing. I always keep head and tail intact when serving whole fish. However, there is no problem with having your fishmonger remove them along with the scales etc. when he/she cleans it for you. You’ll see it served both ways. It is your preference.