I've mentioned before that "Le Mani In Pasta" was our favorite local restaurant when my husband and I lived in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood. It has remained so on all my visits back in the last six years. I've never had a disappointing dish there - from the fish to the meats to the pastas and desserts. Their mussels and clams in a winey broth is hard to beat and I always order it as a first course, not just because it tastes so great, but because it also takes me back to an idyllic time in my life.
On this last visit, I went with a couple of friends, and one of them - Kathryn - ordered the sauteed squid. Of course I had to have a taste, and that was all I needed to know that it was perfect - not tough, not undercooked, just simply and expertly cooked. I love battered and fried squid rings as much as the next gal, but it's nice to eat squid a different way too. One of my favorite methods (a Christmas eve requirement) is stuffed squid baked in a tomato sauce. You can find that recipe here. At Le Mani In Pasta, the squid was neither deep fried nor baked in tomato sauce - just prepared with a light coating of fine bread crumbs and a quick saute in olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice at the end imparts the perfect acidic touch. I tried to duplicate the dish at home, and while it wasn't exactly the same, it was close, and it did bring back a little bit of la bella Roma for a brief moment.
Start with the squid. It's easy enough to find already cleaned at the fish market. I cut it into small pieces, but you can choose to leave the bodies whole if you like.
Place the pieces on a plate smeared with olive oil and some salt. Flip the squid pieces to coat with the olive oil, then sprinkle some fine bread crumbs all over.
Heat a heavy skillet, place a few tablespoons of olive oil into the pan, then add the squid pieces, cooking briefly for a few minutes on each side. Don't worry if the pieces curl as you're cooking. It's hard to avoid that so just press it down with a fork or spatula.
Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkling of minced parsley.