I was recently asked to help out at Richmond Magazine with their Top 25 Restaurants issue that just hit the stands a few days ago. Tina E did a great job as my editor, taking my rather lengthy thoughts and condensing them down to a more reasonable length for the feature. You should rush out a get a copy and read it – if that leaves you wanting a bit more then here is the full piece on Edo’s Squid……
Most people have a list of restaurants that they go to frequently. Within that list is usually a place or two that you head for whenever family or friends show up from out of town. One of those places for us is Edo’s Squid.
First, the space is very interesting. The narrow staircase is scary at best and may make one wonder about the quality of the food at the top. Once at there is a simple open space of wood floors and bare brick walls. Also, something unusual in Richmond, a bit of a view – beyond just the drunk VCU students wander the street below. The space can get loud when busy and it is nearly always busy. Even with a reservation you can have a bit of a wait at times but the food really is worth it.
Ordering Calamari for an appetizer is almost de rigueur. Obviously fresh and expertly fried you know you’re in the right place when you sample the most excellent marinara sauce that accompanies the squid. For something else special there is the Braised Fennel, simple yet full of flavor or my person favorite – Chopped Liver. Cooked to perfection, without a hint of dryness, and combined with hard-boiled eggs the result is soft textures and creaminess that causes a rush of knives to get the last bits. If liver isn’t your style try the Conch Insalata – slices of conch marinated in olive oil and vinegar with garlic. A wonderful balance of flavors, textures and acids that will wake you up and smile.
The main menu is split into two parts. The pasta combinations are on the printed menu and then white sheets on the wall with all the fresh meats and fishes. Creamy and salty Carbonara is a winner for both kids and adults but for a truly sublime experience get the Clams in White Sauce. Big, full clams tossed in spaghetti with olive oil, white wine and garlic. Of the many variations I have tried of this dish over the years this is hands down the best. Not on the menu, but always available, is White Pizza – a bit of a tradition at one of Ed’s other restaurants, Mama ‘Zu.
The handwritten items on the wall allow availability of the freshest items. Some of the fishes may be served roasted whole but if you like robust flavors try any item that they have listed as ‘fra diavlo’. Edo’s manages to walk the fine line between spicy heat while still tasting the main ingredients. Most recently they had monkfish served this way and I can say I was a bit unwilling to share. Oddly, Edo’s also serves one of the best steaks in town. Their Grilled Hanger Steak is always perfectly cooked for us with a crispy crust and a juicy interior. Like so many of the entrées this one is really large enough for two and they do encourage (actually insist if the party is over 4) that everything is served family style.
Edo’s has got a bit of a bad rap for service. Most of that is myth and Richmonder’s propensity for a shared experience to complain about. What it actually is, is competent verging on brusque. Is that a problem? Not really. Sit at the bar on a Saturday night and watch the staff. They are constantly moving. No standing around gossiping, no hanging out in the wait station sipping a cup of coffee/wine, everyone is in motion keeping everyone fed. I’ve actually seen a table cleared, reset and people being taken toward it before the previous diners have left the restaurant.
Something else to remember here is the cost. It is pretty reasonable. If you stick to pastas you can get out real cheap and when you consider that most entrées are nearly big enough for two the per person prices drops even more. The Italian heavy wine list will not gouge you either. Also, they do continuous service all day long – a good way to beat the crowds to enjoy an app or two with a glass of wine in the piece of the afternoon.