A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 07, 2007
Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi became a popular dish in New York City in the 1950s. It usually consists of shrimp baked in garlic sauce.

New York Times
Shrimp Scampi, a Classic Open to Interpretation
Published: March 7, 2007

SHRIMP scampi is a dish so entrenched in the Italian-American vernacular that until the day I decided to make it, I did not realize that I didn’t know what it was.
Thanks to a quick Internet search that I then confirmed in Lidia Bastianich’s authoritative book, “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” (Knopf, 2001), I learned that shrimp scampi is one of those creations in which immigrant cooks adapted Italian techniques to American ingredients.

Scampi are in fact tiny, lobster-like crustaceans with pale pink shells (also called langoustines). One traditional way of preparing them in Italy, Ms. Bastianich writes, is to sauté them with olive oil, garlic, onion and white wine. Italian cooks in the United States swapped shrimp for scampi, but kept both names. Thus the dish was born, along with inevitable variations like adding tomatoes, breadcrumbs, or, as Ms. Bastianich does, tarragon. 

Wikipedia: Scampi
Scampi is the plural of scampo, the Italian name for the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), also known as “Dublin Bay prawns” (especially in the U.K. and Ireland) and “langoustine” (the French name).[1] The name is used loosely both in Italy and elsewhere, though in Britain, food labelling laws define “scampi” as Nephrops norvegicus.

The fleshy tail of the Norway lobster is closer in both taste and texture to lobster and crayfish than prawn or shrimp.

In the United Kingdom, “scampi” refers to a dish of shelled tail meat, coated in breadcrumbs or batter, deep fried and often served with chips and Tartar sauce[1]. In the Southern Hemisphere, other species of lobster are used instead, such as Metanephrops challengeri.

In the USA, “scampi” is often the menu name for shrimp in Italian-American cuisine. “Scampi” by itself is also the name of a dish of shrimp served in garlic butter and dry white wine. The word “scampi” is often construed as that style of preparation, not an ingredient, hence the seemingly pleonastic “shrimp scampi” or the seemingly impossible “chicken scampi”. 

(Oxford English Dictionary)
scampi, n. pl.
(A dish of) these prawns eaten as a delicacy, usu. coated with breadcrumbs and fried in oil, or boiled and served with (garlic) sauce.
1930 E. WAUGH Labels vi. 158, I ate scampi at Cavaletto and felt no ill effects. 

The Fisheries of the Adriatic and the Fish Thereof
by G. L. Faber
London: Bernard Quaritch
Pg. 141: 
Each market has its specialite at certain seasons; for instance, Fiume, the Scampi (Norway Lobster); Zara, a great variety of Crustaceans, among which is the Rock Lobster (Palinurus vulgaris); Sebenico, the Dentale della corona (Dentex gibbosus), whilst at Spalato the Pelamid and the Lichia (Lizza) are very abundant. Trieste being the best market, most of the specialites of other markets are sent there for sale, for instance, the Scampo of Fiume, the Tunny of Croatia, and the Rock Lobster from Dalmatia, &c.
Pg. 274:
Scampa salvatica...Galathea strigosa.
Scamparello, Scampetto...Galathea scamparella.
Scampo morte...Galathea scamparella.
Scampa fals a man lunghe...Galathea rugosa.
Scampo...Nephrops norvegicus.

Handbook of the Mediterranean: Its Cities, Coasts and Islands
by Lieut.-Col. Sir R. Lambert Playfair
Third Edition, Revised
In Two Parts
London: John Murray
Pg. 300, col. 1:
The fish-market is worthy of a visit. A specialite of Fiume in the way of fish is the so-called “Scampo” (Nephrops Norvegicus), a delicious kind of crayfish, from 4 to 8 in. in length. It is found in the deeper parts of the Quarnero, where fresh-water springs abound, but is not met with elsewhere in the Adriatic. It is caught by the Italian trawling-boats, bragozzi, which fish off these shores in winter.

10 July 1951, Syracuse (NY) Herald-Journal, “New York City, the Summer Resort, Is the World’s Greatest Spectacle” by Walter Winchell, pg. 31:
...and Italian restaurants that specialize in scampi and languini (sic) that top anything you can get in Florence;...

6 November 1952, Dixon (IL) Evening Telegraph, pg. 16, col. 7:
Serve French
Shrimp Dish

Scampi is an Italian word for a special shrimp dish. In New York restaurants the word scampi on the menu usually means shrimp broiled with garlic butter. And my gourmet friend, James A. Beard, gives me this French recipe from “Paris Cuisine,” the alluring book he and Alexander Watt have written:

Scampi Fritti
(Serves 4)

One and one-half pounds shrimp, flour, 2 egg yolks, olive oil for frying.

Shell and devein the shrimp and dip them in flour and beaten egg yolk and fry them gently in olive oil until nicely browned. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with lemon quarters and a sauce remoulade.

10 March 1953, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, pg. 14, col. 1:
What Is Scampi?
Shrimp in Sauce

There’s been a lot of speculation about Scampi lately—what it is and how it’s prepared. Learning that it is made of shrimp, we asked the Shrimp Association of the Americas about it. Scampi in New York seems to be shrimp broiled with garlic butter. As for the Paris version, the new cook book “Paris Cuisine,” by James A. Beard and Alexander Watt (Little, Brown and Co., Boston) gives a recipe for Scampi Fritti, with the famous French Remoulade Sauce:...

17 May 1953, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 11:
Shrimp Scampi Treat For Gourmet’s Taste

Shrimp Scampi is a specialty in many Italian restaurants. Directions for the preparation of this dish will not be found in any cookbook, even one devoted entirely to shrimp cookery.

Consultation with owners and chefs of Italian restaurants informs me that the term “Scampi” is applied to the finest of Italian Shrimp. While recipes in various restaurants vary to some extent, Shrimp Scampi are generally prepared by broiling in plenty of butter. A clove of garlic and lemon juice as well as salt and pepper are used for the seasoning.

There is always argument as to whether it is easier to shell shrimp before or after cooking. Most of the evidence is in favor of the first method and this, of course, is necessary when they are to be broiled.
1 pound shrimp, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Remove shell from shrimp. leaving tail shell on. Cut down back of shrimp and remove vein. Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients. Toss shrimp in butter or margarine until shrimp are well coated. Place on broiler pan and broil three inches from heat about five minutes. Broil halved, seasoned tomatoes in same pan with shrimp. Yield: two to three servings.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, March 07, 2007 • Permalink