La Vera Cucina

Gamberetti e Calamari in Agrodolce

       As a boy, Chef Stefano Sena fondly remembers whenever there was leftover calamari from the previous supper, his mother would make one of his favorite dishes, Gamberetti e Calamari in Agrodolce, shrimp and calamari in sweet and sour sauce, tossed with golden raisins, pignoli (pine nuts), and red cherry peppers! In his long, successful career, Stefano has repeatedly used this recipe to win the hearts of potential employers and loyal patrons alike! It remains a customer favorite at Bocelli, his popular Staten Island ristorante.


  • 1 pound medium squid tube and tentacles
  • 1 pound shrimp, 21/25 size (about 16)
  • 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup fresh baby watercress
  • 1 cup sweet cherry peppers, quartered and deseeded
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil plus 4 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pignoli nuts
  • 2 tablespoons white raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce


Clean the squid and cut into 1⁄4 inch rings. If the tentacles are larger than bite size, cut them in half. Peel and devein shrimp. Wash squid and shrimp; drain in a colander. Heat two cups of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. While the oil heats, dredge the shrimp and calamari in flour to coat all sides evenly. Place in a sieve; shake gently to remove excess flour.

When the oil reaches temperature, add calamari and shrimp a few pieces at a time. Fry carefully, moving and turning the calamari and shrimp as needed so the oil fries everything evenly to a golden color, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove shrimp and calamari. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and set aside.

Glaze Preparation: In a large skillet, heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced garlic and simmer to a golden color. Add cherry peppers, pine nuts (pignoli), and white raisins. Toss for one minute, using wooden spoon. Add remaining ingredients; simmer until the sauce takes on a glaze like appearance, approximately 3 minutes. Add the calamari and shrimp to the glaze and toss gently, but quickly. Garnish with fresh baby watercress or fresh basil and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Salsa Agrodolce (ah-grow-DOLE-chay:

Literally combining the Italian words for “tart” (agro) and “sweet” (dolce), agrodolce has been a staple in Italian cooking for centuries. Originating in Sicily, the oldest versions of this thin sauce are made by cooking down a blend of sweet wine and tart vinegar to intensify their combined flavor. Over generations, regional variations have evolved to include additional flavors, like pignoli (pine nuts), raisins, capers, mint, etc. In fact, caponata, a traditional eggplant dish from Sicily, gets much of its characteristic flavor from salsa agrodolce!