Calamari is the Italian word for squid, and since many people don’t necessarily like to be reminded that they’re eating a mollusk related to the octopus, it’s how most restaurants choose to refer to the dish. While calamari has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for quite some time, it took longer to catch on in the United States. In fact, it didn’t become popular here until the early 1980s. Today, you’ll find calamari on a wide variety of menus ranging from the casual pizza spots (alongside other fried favorites like mozzarella sticks) to classy seafood restaurants.  Because of its versatility, restaurants are able to use the mild ingredient in a multitude of ways, mixed with different sauces and accompaniments. Here are just a few of Philadelphia’s best offerings of fried or grilled calamari rings.
Spasso Italian Grill
34 S. Front St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 592-7661
www.spassoitaliangrill.com

Located in Old City, Spasso Italian Grill is just a few steps from Penn’s Landing. The casual feel of the restaurant is warm and inviting, exuding a “come as you are” vibe that’s perfect for everything from date night, to after-work happy hour, to stopping in after a walk on South Street or along the river. Outdoor seating is also available when the weather cooperates. The menu features Italian comfort food such as homemade pasta, fresh seafood and made-onsite desserts. Calamari is available during lunch and dinner as an appetizer for $13.25, and Spasso is one of the few places to offer the dish both fried and grilled. Both receive great reviews, so it’s really up to personal preference. But if you visit during happy hour between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can order the fried calamari for just $6.

Related: Top Seafood Restaurants In Philadelphia

Buddakan
325 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 574-9440
www.buddakan.com

Famous for its swanky atmosphere, the  giant gold Buddha and a menu of modern Asian fusion dishes, Buddakan is often revered as being one of Stephen Starr’s best restaurants. The Old City spot is known for having a large selection of dumplings, with the edamame dumplings being a repeat favorite, but the crispy calamari salad is another iconic Buddakan dish. Available as an appetizer for $15, it easily feeds two to three people with a mountain of lightly breaded and fried hot calamari on top of fresh cool greens with a sweet miso dressing.

Continental Midtown (Credit: Michelle Hein) 


Continental Midtown
1801 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 567-1800
www.continentalmidtown.com

Continental Midtown is the sister restaurant to Stephen Starr’s first restaurant, Continental, located in Old City. The eclectic menu of globally-inspired salads, sandwiches, snacks and entrees is nearly identical between the two locations, but the Continental Midtown features three floors, including the popular rooftop lounge and dining area. Since it’s partially enclosed, the rooftop space is open year-round, offering great views of Rittenhouse Square. Favorite dishes include the Thai chicken skewers, lobster mac and cheese and the crispy calamari salad. Big enough to share, the calamari salad includes beer-battered fried calamari mixed with chopped greens, tomatoes, carrots, sprouts and a tangy soy-ginger dressing for $14.

Sampan (Credit: Michelle Hein) 


Sampan
124 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 732-3501
www.sampanphilly.com

Sampan is a dramatic, artful spot in Midtown Village serving modern Asian small plates by Chef Michael Schulson. The menu is divided into six categories: small, satay, cold & hot, meat, fish and sides. Guests are encouraged to choose favorites from different sections to create their meal. To get the complete experience, opt for the $45 tasting menu where you’ll pick seven courses (plus soft serve ice cream in unique flavors for dessert.) The kale and calamari salad is a favorite dish from the cold & hot section of the menu, featuring lightly fried calamari, apple, spicy cashews and a tangy ginger soy vinaigrette for $13.

L’angolo Restaurant
1415 W. Porter St.
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 389-4252
www.langolo-restaurant.com

L’angolo is a BYOB located just off Broad Street in South Philly, making it a prime spot to stop in before attending a game or concert. Davide and Kathryn Faenza opened the restaurant specializing in authentic Italian dishes in 2000. The menu focuses on the flavors of Puglia, the region of Southern Italy where Davide grew up, with favorites such as lobster ravioli, ricotta gnocchi and the branzino special. Lightly charred, the grilled calamari is fresh and tender, served with a herbed olive oil. The standout appetizer is available during lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $9 or during dinner (closed Mondays) for $11. You can also get a combo appetizer of calamari and shrimp with chickpeas and farro, tomato and spices for $12.

Related: Top Italian Restaurants In Philadelphia

Michelle Hein is the social media editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer husband would love to open.
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