WARWICK, R.I. -- The Ocean State is now the “Calamari Comeback State” thanks to the Democratic National Convention, and Rhode Island’s official state appetizer is having a moment.
“It started last night on Twitter, and it’s been busy since,” laughed Kat Smith, marketing and communications director at the Town Dock in Narragansett, a family-owned business that’s one of the largest calamari suppliers in the United States, and a player in international markets. “It’s been great. Here at the Town Dock, it’s all calamari, all the time, and we always knew it was amazing.”
Rhode Island-style fried calamari is sweet and greasy, the perfect combination of heat and salt from banana peppers and marinara in traditional recipes.
But there are more ways to cook a squid, according to the Town Dock, which features recipes for grilling and sautéing your local calamari. “And as millennials look for more interesting sustainable food, I think we help out,” Smith said.
The humble squid appears on picnic tables at clam shacks and on graceful tablecloths in fine restaurants. You can dress it up and take it out, or opt for the simple Rhode Island recipe of light crispy breading, cherry and banana peppers, and garlic aioli.
There are many, many great restaurants around Rhode Island where you can get your squid fix. Here’s a sample:
Andino’s, 171 Atwells Ave. 401-453-3164 andinosprovidence.com
Federal Hill restaurants know how to serve Rhode Island-style calamari, full stop. Try Andino’s for the all-time classic: generous portions of lightly breaded squid served with hot cherry peppers, garlic sauce, and a side of fresh marinara for dipping.
The Dorrance, 60 Dorrance St. 401-521-6000 thedorrance.com
Go for the elegant setting, the high ceilings, ornate windows, and a dining area with the beauty of a wedding cake. Enjoy the Rhody calamari with spicy pomodoro, pepperoncini peppers, and crispy herbs.
Ciro’s Tavern, 42 Cherry St., Woonsocket 401-769-3330 cirostavern.com
A neighborhood tavern housed in a historic building with an illustrious history and Tudor-style renovation. Take a seat on the patio and order fried calamari squid rings and tentacles, battered and lightly fried in peppers & oil. Also offered honey buffalo or Thai peanut style.
Quito’s Seafood Restaurant and Bar, 411 Thames St., Bristol 401-253-4500 quitosrestaurant.com
This restaurant overlooking Bristol Harbor started as a fish market in 1954. Enjoy classic fried calamari, with hot pepper marinade and marinara sauce on the side, then walk it off in nearby Independence Park.
Anthony’s Seafood, 963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown 401-846-9620 anthonysseafood.net
You can order your calamari the traditional Rhode Island way with marinara on the side, or make it a Kung Pao, with plum chili sauce, peanuts, scallions, and hot peppers.
Twin Oaks Restaurant, 100 Sabra St., Cranston 401-781-9693 twinoaksrest.com
This is a true Rhode Island institution, born as a speakeasy back in the days of Prohibition, and still owned and operated by the DeAngelus Family. Order the Point Judith calamari, a la mama, and enjoy the views of Spectacle Pond.
Matunuck Oyster Bar, 629 Succotash Road, South Kingstown 401-783-4202 RhodyOysters.com
Owner Perry Raso is a proponent of sustainable shellfish, and the restaurant is known for high-quality local seafood. Enjoy the views of Potter Pond and Raso’s shellfish beds and organic farm. Order the Point Judith calamari, with lightly fried cherry peppers, arugula, capers, and citrus aioli.
Two Ten Oyster Bar & Grill, 210 Salt Pond Road, South Kingstown 401- 782-0100 twotenobg.com
Enjoy views of the harbor with your Rhode Island-style calamari, with grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, and hot peppers, topped with garlic aioli, and served with a side of marinara.