Regular readers of my restaurant reviews know I eat squid. What they don’t know is that I’ve been dubbed “the calamari crank” because I am so rarely thrilled by what I get.
Buffalo restaurants are awash in an ocean of squid, so when one dish stands out like a lighthouse, I notice. That dish is the sautéed calamari with arugula at Linguine’s, which I reviewed in May. The squid was tender, supported by a diverse cast: Kalamata olives, chickpeas, capers, cloves of sweet roasted garlic. It was bathed in a light, resolutely lemony cream sauce, on fresh greens with enough bracing peppery flavor to stand up to it all.
Where did it come from? “I lie awake at night and dream recipes up,” chef-owner Vincent Desiderio said. This one went on the menu about eight years ago. When he took it off the specials list customers pestered him for it until he put it on the chalkboard.
Now it’s one of the placards on the wall that tells customers of his Bowmansville restaurant what they should eat. The dish costs $13.95.
To hear him describe it, Linguine’s sautéed calamari is the simplest thing in the world.
“Start your fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil in the saute pan. Maybe half a teaspoon of butter,” he said. “Once the garlic gets going, add your calamari, salt and pepper, white wine, get that workin’ down a little bit.”
He puts in the olives, capers, roasted garlic, then a dash of heavy cream. Chickpeas. “I’m using what I have at my disposal. I have chickpeas, I like ‘em, so I put ‘em in,” he said. “I put chickpeas in my tripe, too.”
He squeezes in half a lemon, and adds its zest, then simmers the mixture to reduce its volume, the only thickener. “Hit it with a little chicken stock,” Desiderio said.
A plate waits, lined with fresh arugula. Put the mixture on the greens, which start to wilt from the heat. Dust the dish with Romano cheese and black pepper, and serve with a lemon garnish. At Linguine’s, a basket of fresh bread is never far away.
“The trick to make that dish successful is fresh calamari,” Desiderio said. “I shudder to think what it would be like if it was frozen. You would have panned me in your review. Try to saute it and it’s like rubber bands.”
Info: Linguine’s, 5380 Genesee St., Bowmansville (683-6542, mylinguines.com)