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Fried Calamari in R.I.

One thing in R.I. we have some great fresh squid caught in R.I. waters. Yet I cannot find out who came up with the hot vinegar peppers garlic on hot crisp squid. All you can taste is vinegar and peppers. Only in R.I. can they ruin fresh seafood like that. All over Italy they serve it with just fresh lemon and in some cases a little marinaria sauce. Once I went to Capitol Grill, someone in the party ordered it it was pricy but that wasnt the point. Out came this fried mass glued together and it floated in a vinegar solution. Approx 2 pounds of it we could have fed some poor homeless people. Seems like the Hot Weiner still rules in R.I. Thank got they have not ruined it.

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  1. I've had the fried calamari at several Capitol Grilles (including in Milwaukee) and it's never looked like that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob W


      Well thats the way they served it a long time ago. when a vinegar mixture is put on a oil froed item it pulls the fat out and made it soggy. I am glad you had better luck. But there is no such thing as a bad night in a restaurant. Been in the business too long. Plus where does the vinegar pepper dressing come in.

    2. Calamari is what I consider to be a "barometer" dish. If the kitchen can do right by the calamari, the rest of the meal should be good. If a plate full of deep fried O-rings come out, then I know to order a burger cooked somewhere between medium well and hockey puck.

      8 Replies
      1. re: RI Swampyankee

        When did calamari become such a "beloved" RI signature dish? I remember snail salad once holding that honor....every place you visited had their version on the menu. To put it all in perspective everything tastes great if it's fresh and prepared well. I don't like calamari with the vinegar peppers dumped on top...Mike's Kitchen serves them on the side so that the delicate flavor of the squid can be appreciated...a little lemon is all I need.

        1. re: colby54

          I agree with colby54 calamari is a recent last 10 years or so phenom and its way too greasy in many places.

          1. re: lawmer


            some of them tasted and looked like Garden Hose Like pieces fried and swimming in hot peppers and vinegar.Capitol Grill is one of the worst eaten.

            1. re: lawmer

              10 years or so phenom? You either just moved to RI 10yrs ago or your 12 years old. Fried Calamari has been a RI restaurant staple for well over 35 years Im 40 so I can only remember the first time I had fried Calamari it was at Micheletti's restaurant which used to be located behind Finest Car Wash across for Coca Cola off Promenade. Old Canteen, Antonios, Blue Grotto, Twin Oaks the list goes on. Fried Calamari is in no way a new phenom in RI. That being said. Whiskey Pub in Providence has taken the old Atomic Grille recipe light crispy batter served with sides of lemon, pepperocini, and Chipotle Aioli never topped with only served with. It's Fantastic.

            2. re: colby54

              Mike's makes a nice snail salad too. But I must express mild disagreement with snail salad ever being a "beloved" RI dish. I think it's always been more of a "yeah it's weird but we like to eat it once in a while" RI dish.

              1. re: Bob W

                I agree that neither snail salad back in the day nor calamari should be "beloved".... just seems to prevail on restaurant menus then and now...don't recall calamari being really popular in the 70's...perhaps it was...

                1. re: colby54

                  Your memory is good, Colby. We never ate squid in the 70s -- and we certainly didn't call it calamari!

                  When it comes to accompaniments, I too favor a simple squeeze of lemon juice, but I do love the "RI style" hot peppers too. Not a big fan of marinara sauce for dipping fried squid; remoulade-type sauces seem to work much better.

                  1. re: Bob W

                    the simpler the better when it comes to fried anything and lemon brings out the flavor of calamari...what is up with serving marinara...just masks flavor....remoulade is also my weakness as well...I even occasionally dip my fries in mayo...not very healthy but yummy!

          2. I prefer just a little lemon on my fried calamari, but also like the change of pace the garlic and vinegar peppers give once in a while. But I've had versions that just overpowered the calamari with hot peppers too - which to me is as bad as placing the calamari on a bed of marinara sauce.

            3 Replies
            1. re: LStaff

              now closed Gertrudes Galley in middletown had portuguese inspired "mozambique style"calimari that was amazing,white wine,galic,lemon,etc.i cant get that flavor out of my mind.arrgghhhhh!!!

              1. re: im hungry

                Marchettis is Cranston has something similar....they toss their fried calamari in their ala mama sauce. The calamari does not come out crispy by any means but the sauce is rather flavorful. It is one of the few things on the bland menu that I look forward to.

              2. I had the calamari at the Capitol Grill years ago and thought it was the best ever. The only thing that came close was a restaurant in Manchester, NH called Cafe Pavone. Both only flash fried the squid and squeezed hot tomato peppers and a bit of oil on top. Perfect. No marinara, but a bit of lemon on the side.

                1. I have had the calamari at Tommy's Pizza Too in Cranston and I have to say it is about the best I have had. Simple and fresh. I happen to like hot peppers but I am sure they would serve it with only lemon if requested. They also serve fried smelts which I have not seen in too many restaurants.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chenzo64

                    you are the second person in a week that has mentioned the calamari at Tommy's. I will have to check it out..thanks!

                    1. re: colby54

                      Up River Cafe has an Asian Calamari that is soooo good.

                  2. Believe it or not I love the way Spain in Cranston prepares calamari. But then again I love everything at Spain.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: girlwbigdogz

                      A RI tradition is to smother calamari in vinegar peppers which lends no flavor to the calamari plus most of it is frozen processed squid so all the flavor is gone. its just another fried fish product that is deep fried to mask any flavors. Best way to enjoy calamari is to catch it fresh then clean it you have no idea the difference in taste.

                      1. re: Frank Terranova

                        I used to love this as a kid, but pass it up almost every time now.

                        Worst I had was the calamari alla mama at Marchetti's in Cranston. Absolutely DRENCHED in this awful, thick garlic sauce. Couldn't taste the calamari if you tried.

                        I love it simple on a hot plancha with some lemon.

                        1. re: dcaparco

                          If you like garlic its actually pretty good....one of the few things on their menu worth eating

                          1. re: dcaparco

                            The main reason restaurants in RI soak it in vinegar tons of garlic it to simply mask an unknown flavor. Ask them to send it out sometime with nothing on it and taste. It looks like a dish of breaded rubber bands. Marchettis OMG they do a tremendous business serving slop as long as its served by quanity just load it up. Be careful of their seafood ............................

                            Marchetti's Restaurant
                            1463 Park Ave, Cranston, RI 02920

                            1. re: Frank Terranova

                              Have you ever had Cafe Nuovo's calamari? We had it the other night and it was pretty good. It was coated with graham cracker crumbs! It sounded strange but it was great. They graham crackers were finely ground and the calamari came with three sauces.

                              Cafe Nuovo
                              1 Citizens Plz Ste 1B, Providence, RI 02903

                              1. re: Frank Terranova

                                I dont that is a fair statement at all. You are implying that all RI restaurants are using inferior products, and that is simply untrue. Many of us grew up eating calimari served in that anner, so that taste has become engrained in us. Its like saying celery salt and meat sauce hides the taste of spolied weiners or butter covers up the taste of bad lobster. You like it plain, other prefer it the "RI way." Its all a matter of opinion - not food quality.

                        2. This is a little off topic from RI, but i took a weekend in Eastham on the Cape last summer with a friend and we went to dinner at Finely JP's http://finelyjps.com/finelyjps/Menu.html My friend is a bit of a calamari freak so she was psyched to see the calamari linguine entree. She was not disappointed! It was not fried and served spciy with anchovies, garlic, and red pepper. they also have a grilled calamari app that sounds good...if you are ever in the area.

                          1. Saw this on the Diego's (Newport) menu and thought it was interesting. Haven't tried it yet though.

                            Baja Calamari 2 Ways
                            Hand cut calamari served sautéed with veggies, jalapeños, lime juice, cilantro and tomato or our famous fried calamari with Baja seasoning, chopped pepper relish and spicy aioli for dipping. $11

                            1. I had a very tender order of fried calamari at Mews Tavern last week. Yum!

                              Mews Tavern
                              456 Main St, Wakefield, RI 02879

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: thinks too much

                                I have not heard about the Mews in years. I didn't realize it was still there. They were famous for having many draft beers on tap as I recall. I'll have to check out their calamari.

                                1. re: HungryChris

                                  They have great pizza and calzones also!

                                  1. re: Alica

                                    Went back this weekend. Nachos were not good, but the calamari was still excellent.

                              2. The first time I had calamari in RI or ever was at the Elks in Smithfield RI. It came with the peppers and the sauce and I thought it was fantastic. It was fried but the whole dish was so different I thought it was great. May be I know a little better now, but I would like to try it again there to compare it to what the rest of the state has.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: perogi

                                  Sometimes when we order calamari in a restaurant we get it sauteed instead of fried and it is still pretty good. We try to avoid fried foods but love calamari.

                                  1. re: Alica

                                    Is it difficult for you all to find "Real Point Judith R.I." squid? Almost all of the squid you see available from Sysco, supermarkets, fish stores etc. is the crap from China. All squid comes frozen in 5 lb. blocks, but almost all I have seen are China imports. Anybody in Florida have any luck finding R.I. squid? Grilled Squid tubes with Olive oil and fresh oregano and served with a splash of fresh lemon juice is summer evenings at their best! Calamari salad, a crisp Soave, even better........

                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                      Sounds wonderful!!! I see RI squid in Whole Foods, McQuades in Westerly, it is around but not often. We had grilled squid at Toscano's in Boston and it was soooo good!