As you walk up the stairway leading to Edo’s Squid, the first thing that hits you is the absolute wall of noise issuing from the tiny second floor restaurant. The second thing that hits you is the intoxicating smell of fresh garlic, the kind of smell only a good Italian restaurant can produce and which immediately lets you know you’re in for a good time. You’ll then be hit yet again by the noise and by the crush of humanity packing this tiny establishment, and you’ll wonder whether the food producing that delicious aroma is worth the loud, cramped dining environment. I’m here to tell you unequivocally that it is.
On the Friday evening we dined at Edo’s, we showed up for our 8:00 p.m. reservation only to be met with a large milling crowd at the host’s station. Many of us were crowded together, awaiting our reserved tables, which was certainly a more enviable position than that of those who attempted to snag a table at this busy eatery sans reservation. I can’t say that it’s impossible to eat here without booking in advance, but should you choose to try, prepare yourself for a long, crowded wait.
You should also be prepared to be seated, as we were, very close to your dining companions. Similar to restaurants in Europe, Edo’s makes up for their limited space by positioning tables very close to one another. However, the loud din practically ensures that no one more than two feet away will be able to hear anything you say, which, in a weird way, makes for a strangely private dining experience. Kathleen and I could hear each other from across the table, and we didn’t feel like our conversation could be easily overheard by our neighbors. So even with the close quarters and loud ambiance, the dining experience still felt intimate, with a backing track of loud, rambunctious fun.
While the atmosphere may not be for everyone, the food at Edo’s is sure to please. We started with an absolutely fantastic appetizer of roasted red peppers alongside fresh mozzarella and anchovies. The salty anchovies were the perfect complement to the rich, tangy mozzarella, and the combination of the two made a wonderful addition to the pungent red peppers. The three flavors combined to make a delicious salty, zesty, peppery start to our meal.
Kathleen and I were both a bit torn over what to order for mains. Both initially eyeing their homemade pastas, we got taken in by the numerous specials on offer that evening. We asked our server whether the pastas were sized as entrée portions, or, like in restaurants in Italy, portioned a bit smaller so as to be enjoyed as a middle course between the appetizer and main courses. We were informed that the pasta portions were large, and we were left with a choice: do we order the pasta and forego the specials, or should we skip the pasta all together to save room for the entrées? We opted for a third option—order everything and eat as much as possible!
I saw carbonara on the menu, and because I can’t help myself, I had to order it. I’m almost always disappointed when I order carbonara outside of Italy, with one major exception, but the carbonara at Edo’s wasn’t bad. It was a far cry from the real thing, for sure, but the pasta was well made and the cheese flavor was pleasant. It did not have the glorious eggy silkiness of true carbonara, nor did it have the necessary porky chunks to compliment the egg and cheese, but for all that, I still enjoyed the dish.
Kathleen’s choice of penne with sausage, ricotta, and broccoli rabe turned out to be our favorite dish (aside from the delicious stuffed pepper appetizer). Normally I hate ricotta—to me it often tastes like bland, chalky garbage—but even that couldn’t stop me from enjoying this dish. The pasta was again beautifully cooked, and the fatty sausage and sharp broccoli rabe combined to make a perfect bite. And the ricotta wasn’t revolting—a win all around.
The daily specials were weirdly written on pieces of paper and attached to the wall, much like something you’d see in a typical kindergarten classroom. What’s more, many of the dishes had no description beyond the featured protein, like “New York Strip” or “Veal Short Ribs.” Was I enticed? Absolutely. However, I’d need a bit more detail to be totally convinced.
When a restaurant lists seven to ten dinner specials with only the barest of details, I’d expect the server to be able to describe the dishes and to have the ability to answer any questions about ingredients and preparation. Unfortunately, our server couldn’t really do either. When I asked what came with the veal short rib dish, I was told, “I don’t know, I think there might be potatoes.” Thankfully, he did say it was prepared “cacciatore style,” which at least gave me a general idea of what was to come. Rather than suffer through similarly unhelpful responses about the other specials, I threw caution to the wind and ordered the veal.
And fully described or not, the veal was a definite hit. The perfectly cooked short ribs were both tender and not too soft, and the just slightly spicy tomato sauce was the perfect complement to the fatty meat. The dish indeed came with some potatoes, but they were unfortunately way too soft—I’d have much preferred something a bit more firm or crunchy to provide a contrast to the tender, fall-apart veal.
Kathleen ordered the Monkfish Fra Diablo, which was a very frustrating dish. On one hand, the fish was prepared to hot, moist perfection. Unfortunately, the chef must have been so busy making sure the cook was absolutely perfect that the entire concept of seasoning was forgotten. The fish was so bland, it tasted as if even the basic salt and pepper were left by the wayside. As to the fra diablo, there was no hint.
Unseasoned fish and weird soft potatoes notwithstanding, we very much enjoyed our visit to Edo’s Squid. The food, as a whole, was very well made, and the somewhat frenetic environment made for a fun Friday night. We’ll assuredly be back, as we’ve made Richmond something of a second home, but next time we’ll maybe sneak in our own salt.