Is there a more guilty pleasure than a fritto misto (frittura, as they say here)? You can see what you’re eating, sort of–rings of sliced calamari, curled shrimps, spongy scallops, a stray chunk of fish, and, if you’re lucky, some thinly sliced or shredded zucchini–all lightly covered in a crispy brown batter, lightly salted.
Frittura is so good; a guilty good food. Then again, just about anything fried tastes good, on account of the batter and the fry and the salt. My wife batters and fries zucchini flowers. They are beautiful, I love them, but I would also argue zucchini flowers have no taste. The fry is the thing that tastes so good.
Calamari, in their unfried state, on the other hand, can be a challenge. My mother-in-law used to stew sliced calamari with peas. It was a good dish. But you can cook calamari too long. You may get a rubbery calamari ring that gives your jaws a workout.
Now, seppia on the other hand. The above dish, from our lunch at Cozza Amara in Pesaro a few days ago, is trofelli (the local word for seppia) with leeks and pendolini (cherry tomatoes). Yes, lovely tentacles. Yes, breadcrumbs, probably with a parsley and garlic and olive oil mix. You can pull a knife through the trofelli with ease.
Tender, I say to my wife’s cousin.
“Sono le seppie nobile,” he says.
Noble, and therefore soft? No, noble because in fact the squid is a creature with blue blood (hence, noble), as oxygen is carried through the organism by way of hemocyanin rather than hemoglobin. (According to my research, calamari are also such creatures.)
Anyway, at Cozza Aara the seppia are amazing. Later this week, up in Venice we will have them grilled. Again, tender and tasty. Unlike the calamari in fritto misto, fried and therefore delicious, the seppia are formidable all by themselves. Because of themselves.
Nevertheless, I would never forswear frittura. In which case, if there is one on the menu in Venice, which most certainly there WILL be…