New Jersey is full of Italian restaurants with rich and tasty cuisine. There are plenty of great entrees to be found in the Garden State, but choosing an antipasto can be a grueling task — cheese, meat, seafood, bread, or a combination of them all. One menu staple that we take very seriously is fried calamari. Choosing this should be a no-brainer, but it’s got to be done juuuust right. You want something crispy and crunchy, with the right amount of breading, not too chewy, with or without tentacles (if you’re into that), and maybe a little something special on the side, like hot peppers or a tangy dipping sauce. We did the leg work (sorry, had to) and went to local restaurants to sample their fried calamari and see which ones you should try out, too. Read on for a guide to crispy calamari in the Montclair area.
Ah’ Pizz | 7 North Willow Street, Montclair
One of Montclair’s legendary Italian spots, Ah’ Pizz is loved by many – so much that you’ll have to time it just right to find an empty spot in their parking lot. Their expansive menu showcases classic Italian and Italian-American dishes such as polenta, eggplant parmigiana, calzones, Caprese, stuffed artichoke, lasagna, arancino, and meatballs. Of course when at Ah’ Pizza one must order fried calamari. They offer two options, classic Calamari which is lightly fried and served with marinara sauce, and Calamari Balsamico which is served with chorizo, hot cherry peppers, and drizzled with balsamic glaze. Ah’ Pizz offers a variety of pastas and pizzas, with gluten-free alternatives, too. Downtown Montclair isn’t Ah’ Pizz’s only storefront, they have other locations in Wayne and Harrison as well.
De Novo European Pub | 276 Bellevue Avenue, Montclair
Located in Upper Montclair, De Novo is a European-style pub offering an appealing and delicious menu. One of the starters, the fried calamari, has such a soft and airy crunch to it and comes with two dipping options: marinara sauce and orange remoulade. Dinners can also sample branzino, clams, shrimp risotto, hanger steak, and potato gnocchi. For dessert, we suggest the gelato, but specifically the mint flavor. It’s just so creamy and rich and you can pair it with the flourless chocolate cake. De Novo has a second location in Edgewater.
Cucina Calandra | 26 U.S. Highway 46 East, Fairfield
Cucina Calandra prides itself on offering classic Italian cuisine in a family-friendly environment. The calamari fritti is served with hot or sweet marinara sauce and lemon over a bed of arugula. This antipasto is great to pair with the arancini. Other dishes here include pasta, fish, pizza, soup, and steak. Tuesday is Pasta night and Thursday’s Nights are Cheese Wheel night. Calandra’s has two more locations in Caldwell and Newark.
Cucina 355 | 355 Franklin Avenue, Nutley
Cucina 355 is an authentic family-friendly oriented restaurant in Nutley. Here you can try the mini rice balls, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, and fried calamari. You can pick the classic calamari, which is served with marinara sauce, or the buffalo calamari option. Cucina also offers pizza, calzones, soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta, seafood, and meat dishes. If you still have room for dessert, you must try the tiramisu.
La Strada Restaurant | 355 Millburn Avenue, Millburn
Located in Downtown Millburn, La Strada Restaurant serves up classic Italian and Italian American cuisine. La Strada offers savory soups, pasta, fish, chicken, and veal. The spot also has gluten-free pasta and pizza. The fried calamari is served with hot or mild marinara and is perfect to pair with the Chicken Francese. Anything served here is just perfect to dip a slice of their fresh bread into. La Strada has both indoor and outdoor dining when the weather is suitable.
Leone’s Restaurant + Pizzeria | 19 South Park Street, Montclair
Since 1995, Leone’s in Downtown Montclair has been serving Italian-American cuisine. Here you’ll find appetizers like mozzarella caprese, mussels marinara, and three types of fried calamari. The calamari fritti is simple and served with a simple tomato sauce and the calamari arrabbiata is served with balsamic glaze, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. The house special, the ginger calamari, is served with ginger, lime, garlic, shallots, and grape tomatoes. Leone’s has both indoor and outdoor dining when the weather is suitable.
Miele’s Restaurant | 125 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona
Since 1954 Miele’s has been serving Italian food with the freshest and finest ingredients. The appetizer menu here boasts a strong seafood assortment offering clams, mussels, shrimp, and fried calamari. At any Italian restaurant, fried calamari is the way to go and at Miele’s, this dish is crispy and crunchy and served with either hot or sweet sauce. Miele’s is also famous for its pasta dishes and even serves Zoodles, the iconic spiral zucchini. If you still have room for dessert, their Tartufo is the way to go. This vanilla and chocolate ice cream ball is covered in chocolate and has a nut and cherry center. Miele’s also has a Pistachio option.
Palazzo Pasta Company | 33 Walnut Street, Montclair
Since 1996, Palazzo Pasta Company has been serving Italian and Mediterranean cuisine prepared by chef and owner John Giglio. Here two types of calamari are offered, the classic fritti and a balsamico option. Either of these dishes is great to pair with bruschetta or caprese. Palazzo offers freshly made pasta, like the pumpkin ravioli with apple cider cream sauce and capellini classico with goat cheese. You can also choose from a variety of chicken, fish, meat, and veal dishes.
Verona Inn | 624 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona
From mozzarella bites to hot pretzels and pulled pork sliders, the Verona Inn offers the ideal appetizer spread for a bar. Amongst these options, you’ll find crispy buttermilk fried calamari served with marinara, Thai, or Buffalo sauce. The Verona Inn also has a fantastic assortment of tots and fries which are great to pair with their burgers.
Zi Zia Pizzeria + Trattoria | 80 Bay Avenue, Bloomfield
Bloomfield’s Zi Zia serves up classic home-style Italian-American fare. Here you can find calzones, pizza, pasta, subs, and soups. The fried calamari here is served with hot or sweet marinara sauce. You can also try out the Buffalo-style option. If you’ve ever wondered what fried calamari on a pizza would be like, then try out the Inferno pie. This 12 or 16-inch pie comes with hot or sweet marinara sauce, garlic, mozzarella, and of course fried calamari.