On California’s central coast, near Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey is an unmistakable California spot, but it certainly has some Narragansett whispers, especially Galilee. If you can get past the fact that the ocean is on the wrong side, and the boats in front of you are facing west rather than east, you will see a city built around water, not just as a geographic feature, but as the center of the people’s livelihood and way of life.
Abundant fish in Monterey Bay have preserved the Romsen Olun tribe for many generations. When Spanish conquistadors colonized the area in 1602 and named it Monterey, it quickly became a central shipping port, and at one point, all freight-based shipments were legally required to pass into California. (Think of it as a pre-state Quonset Point.)
With the growth of the Monterey Bay fishing industry, squid fishing is becoming increasingly important—largely, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, because Chinese immigrant fishermen have been pushed out of other fishing grounds and have found a successful niche in nighttime squid fishing in the California market. . In the early 1900s, the town experienced an explosive growth in fishing, and processing plants opened in what became known as Cannery Row (the place that inspired John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name). When overfishing wiped out marine life in Monterey Bay, the canneries closed, but squid fishing is still a huge local industry.
Cannery Row is now a tourist destination and home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where I started my day in Monterey. Knowing I was going to have a big seafood dinner that night, that could have been a mistake. I was feeling very guilty walking through the new “Into The Deep” exhibit, which the aquarium says houses the largest collection of deep-sea creatures in North America. This group included the astonishingly enormous Japanese spider crab, which has a leg length of 12 feet, and you can watch it live here. Seeing this guy felt especially bad knowing I would soon order Dungeness crab, a true Northern California delicacy, which rivals squid for Monterey’s most valuable catch.
The aquarium also focuses on sustainability, and has a seafood watchdog program that educates the public – including restaurants – about choosing sustainable seafood. On top of that list: California market squid, the main source of calamari on the West Coast, which has been rated “best choice/buy first” due to reduced overfishing risks and minimal impact of fishing on other species.
I left the aquarium and made my way to Fisherman’s Wharf, a pier that was once purely commercial and is now a huge tourist attraction filled with restaurants, whale watching cruises, and gift shops. At one of the stalls, you can walk in and buy a cup of spiced calamari or a crab cocktail to eat while you’re walking around. In other cases, the same, only with ice cream and dessert. All of the menus at the quayside restaurants feature calamari in more than one setting, but I’ve headed to the most famous of them all: Abalonetti Bar & Grill.
He named her Monterey’s Aunt Curry. You won’t be far, though, though Aunt Carrie’s has been serving up since 1920 and Apollonity since 1951. Inside, tables covered with square tablecloths look out onto the pier and the sailboats behind. Outside, the view is the same, but you have to keep an eye out for the seagulls looking forward to sharing your dinner. On the menu: More than a dozen calamari dishes, from calamari and chips to calamari tacos, with a section of “popular calamari appetizers” like the Special Marti, a filet of calamari over fried eggplant, topped with marinara, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
A fiery Rhode Island preparation—fried rings and claws with chili, lemon, and a side of marinara—can be seen. If you guessed I was skeptical about what I was ordering when I ordered “Fried Monterey Calamari” (the menu promised “Best Monterey sound year after year!”), you’re right.
“Abalonetti” is the term used when preparing squid in the same way as abalone: remove the skin, open the squid, and crush the calamari until it is fluffy and soft. When I brought my servant, he did so without a modicum of pride. “This is some of the best calamari in the world,” he said. “You’ll love it.”
we will see, I said to myself. I took a bite. It was everything the restaurant promised. Instead of rings and claws, there were large, thin, flat pieces of calamari on my plate, topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and fried into delicately crunchy bits. The squid was delicious on its own, and it comes with cocktail sauce that has the finest chili horseradish, and a light tartar sauce scented with fresh dill.
The server was right. It was some of the best calamari I’ve ever had. It’s not just about the preparation of the squid, but its maturity. said Abalonetti, Managing Partner, Kevin Phillips monterey food You buy only fresh Monterey Bay squid and hire a full-time employee to process more than 1,000 pounds of squid indoors each week (around £70,000 annually). Most of the squid that ends up on American dishes, whether it’s from Galilee or Monterey, was shipped to China for processing, where labor is cheaper and more plentiful, and sent back to America.
So who wins the calamari crown? Well, that depends on how you judge the winner. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rhode Island brought in more than 33 million pounds of commercial squid in 2020, worth just under $25 million. That same year, California brought in £45 million, valued at just over $26 million. But keep in mind that 149 Rhode Island could fit into California. In this context, it certainly appears that Little Rhody is doing a much larger volume of squid per capita. But when it comes to hard numbers, Monterey is the victor. It’s hard to know exactly what percentage of California market squid gets out of Monterey Bay, and in the same way it’s hard to tell what percentage of longfin squid and elex squid are caught in Rhode Island through Port Galilee—but the two places are the centers of the state’s squid industries, so it’s safe to say We say “mostly”.
In 2021, Rhode Island brought in more than 38 million pounds of longfin squid and eel squid, valued at nearly $34 million. California’s catch in 2021-22 was triple what it was the previous year, with a value of more than $75 million.
But then, there is a general reputation to consider. Point Judith calamari is on menus across America, even in California, everywhere from San Jose in the San Francisco Bay Area, to Beverly Hills. Monterey Bay calamari doesn’t have the same type of market share – but that’s because more than 90 percent of squid catch on the West Coast goes to Asia, where the food is very popular. And let’s not forget that viral moment from the 2020 Democratic National Convention, when calamari from Iggy’s Boardwalk on Oakland Beach was the show’s rising star and was trending nationally on Twitter.
So maybe that’s the way we go. Rhode Island wins the hearts (and quilters) of America. Monterrey wins the rest of the world.