Food for Soul

The Lighter Side of Octopus


The chef Justin Smillie shaves the octopus into long strips for his summer dish at Il Buco Al Mare.

Credit…Joel Goldberg for The New York Times
Florence Fabricant

By Florence FabricantAug. 30, 2021

Justin Smillie, the executive chef for the Il Buco restaurants in Manhattan and in Amagansett, N.Y., wanted to devise a lighter take on octopus. “I was looking for something other than the big steaky chunks you always see,” he said. So instead of cutting meaty cross-sections of the tentacles, he shaved them into ribbons the long way, quickly seared the strips on a plancha and tossed them with tiny tomatoes, herbs, a bit of Fresno chile and olive oil for his delectable, crispy octopus dish ($26, among the small plates at Il Buco Al Mare). He starts with cooked octopus and uses a meat slicer; for home cooks, a sharp knife works. He recommends marinating the strips before cooking, and also suggests threading them on skewers or tossing them with pasta or into rice dishes.

Il Buco Al Mare, 231 Main Street, Amagansett. N.Y., 631-557-3100,

Florence Fabricant is a food and wine writer. She writes the weekly Front Burner and Off the Menu columns, as well as the Pairings column, which appears alongside the monthly wine reviews. She has also written 12 cookbooks. A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 1, 2021, Section D, Page 3 of the New York edition with the headline: To Sear: The Lighter Side Of Octopus. 

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