Sirena Serious EATalian
Linguine con Calamari from Sirena
Romantic lighting and a cozily packed house welcomed my husband and me for dinner this past weekend. I’d spotted Sirena’s lime green-lit sign as I drove home on North Great Neck Road when I probably should’ve been paying attention to rush hour traffic. While only reigning in Virginia Beach for close to a month now, they were formally known as Sirena Cucina Italiana in Downtown Norfolk. After over a decade they picked up their utensils and headed to the beach as Sirena, which is Italian for mermaid.
Though we requested a 7 p.m. spot, the next table wouldn’t be available until 9 p.m. when we’d typically wind down via Netflix and red wine. But in Italy, nine isn't necessarily deemed too late to eat, so we did as the Romans do.
There were armfuls of pasta dishes tossed with bolognese sauce, portobello and broccoli rabe, just to mention a few, as well as veal dishes and some delectable sides, but we wanted a taste from the ocean that evening. We shared an octopus salad, or Polpo alla Griglia, and Linguini con Calamari, a spicy seafood pasta dish, with much of their dangerously flaky bread dipped in olive oil that tastes good enough to drink. Instead of the olive oil, we washed it all down with a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
The salad arrived with a familiar aroma near and dear to my heart: the grill. This octopus friend’s arms laid across the plate, ready to do some serious salad lifting. It was charred perfectly, cooked to leave the slightest amount of chewiness and less work for my chompers. For those who are hesitant to order octopus, even the husband enjoyed it, and that’s coming from someone who wouldn't normally think twice about avoiding this eight-armed creature. Tossed with cannellini beans, red onions and peppery arugula, the grilled octopus brought each ingredient to a nice balance. It was all dressed in aged sherry vinegar which pronounced a bit of a crisp, tart bite, but overall it kept the salad simple and light.
Linguine con Calamari wasn’t your average American-Italian pasta dish covered in a marinara or heavy alfredo. It was true Italian—simply seasoned arriving in a buttery, spicy dry vermouth sauce lightly drizzled amid pleasantly chewy baby calamari. A rainbow palette of zucchini, cherry tomatoes and capers spruced up this exceptional dish.
There was no room to spare for dessert after cleaning our plates, but that doesn’t mean I didn't have my eye on their dolce offerings. When I return I'll be sure to have their Tartufo al Caffé in mind, a cream-filled chocolate truffle and a shot of espresso poured over top.