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Andrew Galarneau

I'm a sucker for these 8 fried calamari plates around WNY

Squid tossed in seasoned flour and fried to a crisp has become one of the 716 area code’s signature appetizers.

Calamari is harder than it looks, though – much more challenging than cooking chicken wings. Coating failure, cooking mollusk morsels to rubber band stage, and overdoing post-Frialator ornamentation are common flaws.

Here’s eight plates of sublime fried squid that left me wanting more:

Hayes Seafood House

8900 Main St., Clarence (632-1772)

The closest thing we have to a New England seafood house gets fresh seafood and treats it right. The helpings I’ve had – all rings, no tentacles – were crumb-coated, for more texture, and served up with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. No frills, just right.

[Review: At Hayes Seafood House, a taste of New England in Clarence]

Fried calamari at Hayes Seafood House. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Allen Burger Venture

175 Allen St. (768-0386)

Maybe it’s hard to believe a destination burger emporium has seafood worth scarfing. Floured and flash-fried, the squid ($13) is excellent, but it’s that bracing sweet chile sauce, doctored up with lashings of lime, cilantro and more, than makes it compulsively noshable.

[At Allen Burger Venture, exploring pleasures beyond beef]

Crispy calamari at Allen Burger Venture. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Hooked

5195 Main St., Williamsville (428-3957)

In a seafood-leaning hotel restaurant, Anthony James' calamari ($14) does a duet with Greek salad. Rings and gloriously crunchy tentacles are tumbled with lemon-dressed arugula, zippy pickled banana peppers, and feta cheese, punctuated by briny Kalamata olives.

[At Hooked, seafood with flair in a hotel setting]

Ilio DiPaolo's

3785 South Park Ave., Blasdell (825-3675)

Long golden curls of squid cut lengthwise suggest you’re not getting squid shaken out of a bag. Crumbed and fried, the golden petals are served with cocktail sauce ($12.99), but I would suggest an upgrade and use them to scoop up earthy tripe in marinara.

[At Ilio DiPaolo's, Italian-American family style | Veloce Buffet at Ilio's]

Winfield’s Pub

1213 Ridge Road, Lackawanna (821-0700)

In a daring departure from calamari orthodoxy, Tab Daulton sauces wispily fried calamari in savory miso dressing ($10). Tumbled with arugula, red bell and poblano peppers, it might be one of the lightest fried seafood appetizers ever.

[At Winfield's Pub, a truly upgraded tavern menu hits home]

Frankie Primo’s

51 W. Chippewa St. (855-3739)

The Italian king of Chippewa serves a killer plate of calamari ($12), of tender seafood in a wispy flash-fried crust. But what really elevates it to stardom is the aromatic pesto aioli and pristine San Marzano sauce you are blessed to dip these bites into.

[On Chippewa, Frankie Primo’s offers a sophisticated touch of Italy]

Osteria 166

166 Franklin St. (858-3118)

The calamari-as-dinner-salad school finds its finest Buffalo-centered expression at this downtown Italian hotspot. Fried squid rings ($16) are tossed in hot sauce, then tumbled with fried sweet and hot peppers, salad greens and crumbled gorgonzola cheese.

[Osteria 166 brings Italian bustle downtown]

The Como

2220 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls (285-9341)

The grandfather of Niagara Falls Italian serves an old-fashioned straightforward calamari plate ($17.95) for the ages. Lightly coated hand-cut squid fried to a crisp is presented with plenty of lime wedges, in an abbondanza that’s enough for a crowd.

[Como restaurants still deliver on tried-and-true offerings]

. . .

Send restaurant tips to agalarneau@buffnews.com and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.

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