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WARNING - Italian Scampi is NOT shrimp

WARNING - Italian Scampi is NOT shrimp
Recently in Italy and ordered a pasta with scampi at a RS recommended restaurant in Vernazza. The English listing on the menu said pasta with shrimp. Italian for shrimp is gamberi. When I questioned the waiter he said the dish was with shrimp/prawns. It came with squat lobsters/pinch bugs (probably Galathea intermedia - there are almost 1000 species worldwide). We had a discussion where he claimed they were langoustine (commonly Norway lobster = Nephros norvegious), not a true lobster.
After living and fishing in Alaska for 44 years, I recognized these as a species we knew as squat lobster (usually Munida quadrispina), a hermit crab relative. Langoustine have claw arms with max length similar to body length. They have tail meat where 1 or 2 would be about a tablespoon. Squat lobsters have claw arms 1 to 2 times their body length. They are edible but it would take 2 dozen to provide a tablespoon of meat. Discussion did not go well. Other restaurants in area offer gamberi dishes and arrive with true shrimp/prawns.

Posted by
576 posts

You lost me a little, but I would have been disappointed if I didn’t get shrimp.

Posted by
9037 posts

I will never order “shrimp” of any sort in Italy s they do not shell them. It is a mess to eat them. Once was enough. My chef-trained son was disgusted.

Posted by
45 posts

Diane - sorry for the over technical rant. I wanted to forestall claims I wasn't sure of my subject. If you are curious, Google the names to see pictures. Laurel - you are right about Italians not shelling gamberi. My wife cooks shrimp in the shell to make stock. Then I get to shell them for consumption. They just combine the steps I guess.

As a tourist in Italy (and elsewhere), I know I am occasionally going to be over-charged or scammed. I often put up with some minor "games" but this "shrimp" substitution in a RS recommended restaurant was too much. Some people I talked with in Vernazza said everyone knew RS & his guides, so treated them differently than the norm.

Posted by
576 posts

Larry
I’m convinced that you know what you are talking about!😀

Posted by
3421 posts

"...Italian Scampi is NOT shrimp..."

Scampi is NOT shrimp irresepctive of whether you're in Italy or not.

From Wikipedia:

Scampi, also called Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), is an edible lobster of the order Decapoda (class Crustacea). It is widespread in the Mediterranean and northeastern Atlantic, from North Africa to Norway and Iceland, and is a gastronomic delicacy.

I've never considered scampi to be the same as shrimp (prawn), I've always known it to be langoustine. Personally I find the taste of langoustine to be much better than prawn and I would be more than happy if my 'shrimp' dish actually contained scampi. If the dish was called pasta with scampi and you received scampi (langoustine) then what you received was correct. The translation into English is unreliable and the use of the word shrimp/prawn was a misinterpretation.

In summary, if you want gamberi opt for pasta gamberi or if you want scampi opt for pasta scampi.

Anyway......did it tast nice?

Posted by
10701 posts

Well, this thread was an interesting lesson for this non-foodie! To add to JC's post (also from Wikipedia):

Scampi is the Italian plural of scampo, Nephrops norvegicus. The
Italian word may be derived from the Greek καμπή kampē ("bending" or
"winding").[5] Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom and Spain have
substituted shrimp in scampi when required.

Nope, 'fraid I don't see any scam here.

Posted by
5512 posts

I doubt this was about them trying to scam you, more a confusion about terminology, probably on both sides.
Even without the level of confusion added by the use of different languages it is not uncommon for different countries to call the same thing by different names or call different things by the same name.

Shrimp in the US are not shrimp in the UK. I would be very disappointed if I got American biscuits if I was expecting British biscuits to go with my coffee but I wouldn't assume it was a scam or an attempt to rip me off.

Posted by
2551 posts

Don't blame it on the Italians or your waiter who was given the wrong translation. We are the visitors there and should be the ones to look it up. I"ll take seafood in any form thank you.

Posted by
4357 posts

Yes in this case it is American English (or cooking terminology) that has the outlier usage for the term scampi. Although maybe the translator was fooled by knowing or looking up American English.

Posted by
7960 posts

If you don't want to feel scammed, or cheated, or shortchanged, don't go to a restaurant suggested in an RS guidebook or any guidebook unless a local has suggested it.

Many of these places get so many tourists that they let quality go down.

Posted by
488 posts

Oh the poor waiter!!!
Another vote for scampi are not shrimp. As a Brit shrimp are tiny, about 3cm and a very sweet, the are nearly always served in their shell as are very fiddly to shell, but that is part of the joy. If peeled, they are served potted or as part of a sauce. I love sitting in St Malo with a bowl of crevette gris - brown shrimp, a chilled bottle of wine and all the time in the world.
Another case of two countries seperated by the same language😁

Posted by
4485 posts

This is an education. From thousands of Red Lobster* commercials for their "shrimp scampi", I always assumed scampi was a style of serving shrimp. I'd guess most Americans would assume the same. Fortunately for me, I think all those multi-leg things are disgusting, and never eat them.

*an omnipresent American seafood chain restaurant

Posted by
22750 posts

So why the WARNING in block capitals? Is there a safety issue here?

Posted by
1423 posts

Fortunately for me, I think all those multi-leg things are disgusting,
and never eat them.

I once saw a YouTube video of a shrimp running on a treadmill. My first thought: "People actually eat those things?"

They give me the creeps.

Then I went out with some acquaintances in Berlin. One of them thought she was being grand by ordering a plate of (whole body) shrimp for the whole table. I tried to decline eating them, but she acted hurt. So I said, "I don't know how to eat them. Show me, and I'll eat them." I did indeed eat them.

They still give me the creeps.

Posted by
903 posts

Shrimp isn't scampi. To me "shrimp" means Morecambe Bay potted shrimps - which are delicious but tiny, I'm not sure how you could make them into scampi unless you "de-potted" and mushed a lot together. Scampi, I thought was also a generic term for cooking bite-sized flesh by frying in breadcrumbs or batter and which might or might not use Dublin Bay prawns, which are also called scampi whether or not fried.

Posted by
1117 posts

I'm guessing that Dave also avoids the Louisiana-style crawfish boils too then

Posted by
2330 posts

ahh the perils of a google translated menu.In Pague I saw a great meal that had a lovely Poo Sauce ,the Czech work for beef is hovězí but had been abbreviated to hov. and Google translate ( which I presume they used to translate the menu into English)took this to mean hovno which means sh*t.
Scampi is not shrimp as far as I am concerned and never will be.

Posted by
1348 posts

The more one travels in Italy, the more one realises that "Italian" food in the USA is not the same as Italian food in Italy.

Posted by
159 posts

I am open to correction, but I am reasonably certain that in the UK at least, and possibly all of the EU, that "Scampi" is a protected term and can only be used for Nephrops norvegicus.
(Edit - wrote UK twice)

Posted by
5001 posts

I never order shrimp in Italy or Spain as you have to shell it on your plate.

Posted by
903 posts

TimW - according to Google (natch), you're half right. If one refers to "Scampi" then English labelling laws (don't know about the rest of the Union), mean it must be Dublin Bay Prawns (aka nephrops norvegicus), but if you refer to "scampi X" to mean cooked in a certain way, then the "X" can be whatever you say it is and the "scampification" means breadcrumbed or battered. It doesn't even have to be a seafood.

This must be the equivalent of that argument about Jaffa Cakes.

Posted by
1348 posts

I never order shrimp in Italy or Spain as you have to shell it on your plate.

Ah... but that's why they taste so good, in Spain we say "sabe a mar" (tastes like the sea)! That flavour of the sea is just not the same in the States, where everything is pre pealed/cut for you, from fruit to fish and everything in between ;-)

Posted by
488 posts

Totally agree Carlos and its what makes eating prawns and shrimps so pleasurable and enjoyable!

Posted by
4418 posts

Whatever you call them, across Europe (not only Italy) I've had seafood (usually some sort of pasta) land on a plate in front of me, seemingly decorated on top with one of those loooong, lanky things that look kinda like a skinny prawn (not a technical term) with "arms" twice the length of it's scrawny body. I think they must be for decoration only because, best as I can tell after many efforts, the pitiful little things have nothing worth eating in them. Maybe if you chew on the shells. Maybe they impart a slight whiff of ocean scent. Maybe it's just there so it can be marketed as "seafood pasta." In any case, I gave up on eating those things years ago. The work-to-benefit ration is just too low. But it's just how things are there, not worth the trouble to get worked up over it.

I will add my own caution: if you are ever in Tórshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands, do not eat at Toscana, AKA "the Italian restaurant" (AFAIK, I believe it's the only one in the city, so locals just refer to it as "the Italian place"). My wife and I each had one of our worst meals ever there (and we've had some awful food in our travels). Coincidentally, I ordered "scampi" off the menu. It was really awful, and I never detected anything like any shrimp, prawn, langoustine, etc. in it anywhere. It was just a salty, sticky, glutinous mass, smothered in a bitter, dark red sauce. My wife ordered a salmon dish, which was also horrible, too (the fish should have been decent, since they're farming lots of salmon in fjords all over the country). This made it to the top of our list of "worst meals we've ever suffered, anywhere" (beating out sushi in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and some mystery meat dish whose name translated into "Morsels" I ordered at a dive bar in northern Spain). That "Italian" restaurant in Tórshavn was just awful and should be avoided, it's not a scam, it's just a terrible restaurant (surprisingly, "the Japanese restaurant" in Tórshavn was great, so go figure).

Posted by
3421 posts

I never order shrimp in Italy or Spain as you have to shell it on your plate.

What's the problem with that? It means you get to suck the heads out as well! Shell on prawns (shrimp to Americans) are not just found in Spain or Italy, they can be served like that all over Europe. The shell protects the flesh from becoming rubbery from overcooking and really isn't difficult to peel, it's part of the pleasure of eating a plate of frutti di mare.

Posted by
2783 posts

In the US, if you see the term "scampi" it refers to the method of cooking the shrimp, prawn, langoustine, lobster, or whatever. It is usually baked in a large quantity of oil with garlic and then topped by bread crumbs which are allowed to brown before serving. A Red Lobster restaurant standard!

I was never aware that scampi was actual type of crustacean. I have never seen it on any menu in Italy during my travels, but then I haven't been everywhere in Italy. Guess I will watch out for it now.

Posted by
10701 posts

Peel-and-eat shrimp are not all that uncommon in some restaurants and bars in the U.S. 🍤 They're yummy, too, 'specially with a cold 🍺 !

Posted by
5512 posts

I'm really surprised by how many people are squeamish about peeling a prawn! There is no comparison in the taste between a peeled and unpeeled prawn even if like me you don't go near the heads. The peeling is also very easy to do. Much easier than tackling crab claws.

A few years ago I went to a tempanyaki restaurant where the chef cooked the removed shells on the griddle. Weighted down and left for a few minutes they puffed up like pork crackling. They were really delicious.

Posted by
2783 posts

It is nearly impossible to get shrimp or prawns in the US with the head on (shell on yes, entire head and all no). They seem to rot too quickly. Maybe it is just the distance from where they are caught to the restaurants. I am happy with Texas Gulf or Key West shrimp with no heads. Very tasty.

Now crawfish are something completely different. They are almost always sold head on and you have to suck out the meat and other tasty bits. Messy but fun.

I don't know of anywhere in the US to get whitebait. I'm sure most of us would not care for the thought of what is being eaten. :-)

Posted by
3421 posts

Peel-and-eat shrimp are not all that uncommon in some restaurants and bars in the U.S. 🍤 They're yummy, too, 'specially with a cold 🍺 !

That's what I was thinking! I was trying to recall whether all those bowls of broiled seafood that are ubiquitous in restaurants, particularly in the South, that I encountered contained shell on shrimp along with crab, lobster and whatever else gets chucked in.

Posted by
1348 posts

It means you get to suck the heads out as well!

I agree 100% JC! That's the best part of eating Gambas a la plancha 😍

Posted by
5512 posts

I'll eat it but I think whitebait is a bit over rated. Just fishy crunchy stuff. Usually something much nicer on a menu.

Posted by
6864 posts

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades, i’ve always known Scampi as very large Shrimp. I sympathize with you Larry. I’ve had many interesting experiences with seafood in Europe not being what i thought it would be, or served in a way that i can’t eat it (face and eyeballs staring at me from the plate), and almost never order it anymore.

Posted by
954 posts

As someone who works with seafood labeling, here are my two cents:

First you have to distinguish between the species common name, scientific name and latin name.
The common name in this case is scampi, shrimp or prawn. Those are not necessarily protected. There is no set definitions of prawns or shrimp and the two can be used interchangeably and differ depending on the country. Shrimp can sometimes be used to describe smaller crustaceans and prawn bigger ones, but it is not always the case. Take for example the Pandalus Borealis, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation officially refers to them as Northern prawns, the common name for them can be pink shrimp, deepwater prawn, deep-sea prawn, nordic shrimp, great northern prawn, northern shrimp, coldwater prawn and Maine shrimp.

In the case of scampi, that is a common name that in most of Europe refers to the species with the latin name Nephrops Norvegicus. Other common names are Dublin bay prawn or Norway Lobster. In Danish it is know as Jomfruhummer, which translates to virgin lobster. I've seen some tourists look very dissapointed when served these, expecting a whole plate of lobsters
However my favorit name for it is the German name Kaisergranat.

So while the common names for seafood can be confusing and lack proper definitions, another issue is species substitution. That is when you as a costumer are promised one species, but get something else. A large meta analysis of DNA tests of seafood determined that 30% was misslabelled. This can happen for various reason, from the more benign ignorance to downright fraud, where expensive species are substituted for cheap ones.

Posted by
6252 posts

White bait= smelt (Eng.) eperlan (Fr.),
Rolled in flour and fried in olive oil, sprinkle salt, lemon...
Even my picky kids popped those like French fries, heads and all. Left a mess in the kitchen and I always wondered how much mercury and other metals those little fresh-water babies contained, coming from our once-Great Lakes.

Posted by
954 posts

Bets those tiny smelt are not a big concern when it comes to mercury and other heavy metals, since mercury concentrate in species higher up in the food chain, in the big predators.

Posted by
45 posts

I issued my warning regarding scampi to alert people that may not be aware of the differences in Europe. I knew that Italian scampi was langoustine, not shrimp. That was why I questioned the waiter as to langoustine or gamberi. He replied it was gamberi. I know that what was served to me was NOT scampi, langoustine (norvegious or otherwise), gamberi, shrimp, prawns, crawdads, etc. The owner(?) said they were very small langoustine; he sheepishly admitted he could not get bigger. I knew it was squat lobster having seen lots of them in our pots mixed with true shrimp. The piazza fishermen in Vernazza knew the difference. I am picking on that restaurant because they tried a scam and knew it didn't work that time.

Some of you might have skipped the part where I mention 44 years of fishing. I have caught and eaten hundreds of pounds of halibut, salmon, rockfish, trout, grayling, pike, greenling, char and more while fishing Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia and Washington. I have set pots and trapped uncounted numbers of dungeness crab, shrimp, starfish and squat lobster. ( We do not eat starfish or squat lobster.)

I have been impressed by the skills chefs in Europe, especially on the Med, show in making tasty dishes from the poor fish available. (Just google grdobina fish!) I guess we are spoiled being able to routinely eat the best and freshest fish & seafood here in the Pacific Northwest.

Posted by
954 posts

Larry I don’t doubt that you can tell you species apart, I’ll admit my reply was more directed at the general thread and I only read you original post quickly. Re Reading i can see that your complain was that it was not Nephrops Norvegicus, but squat lobster you were served. This does look like a case of fraud, since I’ll bet squat lobster is a cheaper option, and most tourist can’t tell the difference.

Posted by
5512 posts

Not sure why you think its "apocryphal" but anyway, potted shrimp in this context means brown shrimp in a flavoured butter, served in a small pot. When cold the butter acts as a preservative. Served with toast they are delicious. Potted shrimp from Morecambe Bay are particularly famous. Traditionally you could also get potted meats (ground cooked meats in a pot, preserved under a layer of fat) but this is much less common these days.

Posted by
903 posts

Tom_MN - "potted" as in preserved in a pot. Obvious surely? Also potted as in "brief", less obvious perhaps but "potted history of America".

Posted by
3421 posts

Looks like Tom deleted his post and a a result leaves Emma's and Nick's responses without context. I don't know why Tom just didn't leave it in (well I do but......)

Posted by
2521 posts

why Tom just didn't leave it in

I didn’t realize it had been 2 days since the last post and I thought no one would read it. Also it was off topic.

Noting again that I’m still finding English language usage differences between US and U.K. even after 50+ years.

AFAIK “potted” in the US only refers to plants, not being drunk (learned from Monty Python in the 70s), not meat served in a little dish per Emma, and definitely not canned meat or condensed per Nick.

Posted by
2520 posts

I've never considered scampi to be the same as shrimp (prawn), I've always known it to be langoustine.

I couldn't read all the comments, but I do know that in the US, "scampi" is used as a term for shrimp. Actually, even worse, dishes are often described as "shrimp scampi."

Posted by
3421 posts

Noting again that I’m still finding English language usage differences between US and U.K. even after 50+ years.

There's a whole wealth of differences between the UK and US languages but also many European interpretations. I still recall my bemusement at reading the breakfast menu on my first trip to the US and encountering 'biscuits and gravy', my mind boggled at such a bizarre concept (biscuits mean cookies in the UK) and then I found out what it was. Likewise chicken fried steak, how do you intepret that? Now that I know I can understand why it's called that and I still don't know what to do with those little packets of crackers that often accompany soup. For me, crackers are to be used as a base for cheese, so I'm not sure whether to dunk them in like a piece of bread or break them up and sprinkle them in the soup?!

It's all part of the fun in travelling and certainly if you're visiting a country where English is not the first language then it's a given that you're going to encounter innacurate translations.

Posted by
2521 posts

visiting a country where English is not the first language

I've posted this before but I was baffled by the rudeness of Indian Railway staff when using the word "bogie" for railway passenger car* and my not understanding them. I don't think that word is used that way in any other country. I remember telling some Germans using the word that "It's not proper English" but an American has little credibility in this regard.

*In Indian English, bogie may also refer to an entire railway carriage.

Posted by
2783 posts

AFAIK “potted” in the US only refers to plants

Oh, but you have not lived until you have eaten the canned Armor brand potted meat. gag! Right next to the vienna sausage cans in the grocery.

Basically all the parts they couldn't call anything else swept off the floor and put in to a can. Cheap, nasty, and filling. Great when you are short on funds I guess.

Posted by
2521 posts

Apparently the biscuit/cookie conundrum is old and muddled. Like a lot of these kinds of differences, it dates from an older usage.

Potted Meat

Well, potted meat, there it is. I don’t shop the SPAM aisle too much.

Love the reviewer who uses it to surround a pill she gives to her dog, and this perplexing post:

“I truly do enjoy eating potted meat and crackers, so when I accidentally bought 39 pounds of Cheez Whiz, I bought a 24-pack of these to complement it.”

I can’t wrap my head around accidentally buying 39 pounds of Cheez Whiz, especially someone who spells ‘complement’ and ‘truly’ correctly.

Posted by
9588 posts

If I understand correctly, the italian menu said Scampi, the English menu said Shrimp; and the dish contained neither, but did contain a low quality substitute version for the claimed ingredients (scampi or shrimp). I would call that a bit of a scam.

Posted by
5512 posts

My turn to be confused Tom but why did you think the Indian Railway staff were being rude?
Off topic, but there does seem to be a difference between potted meat in the UK, which is fresh, and potted meat in the US which is tinned.UK potted meat is nothing like SPAM.

Posted by
2521 posts

Indian Railway staff were being rude?

Maybe flustered that repeatedly shouting, “bogie” wasn’t connecting with me is a better description than rude. I think most non-Indian English speakers would have been at a loss.