Who doesn’t love Shrimp Scampi? And why do they call it shrimp (scampi) shrimp? According to Lydia B (and as told to me by an american), it was the italian immigrants who couldn’t find scampi in America so they substituted with shrimp instead. Both words sort of stuck together, and that is how shrimp scampi was born. To set the record straight (because a new cook is born everyday), here’s the lowdown on Shrimp Scampi and scampi the subject in question.
1. Shrimp Scampi is an italian-american dish so regardless of the fact that in Italy, grated parmigiano is never an accompaniment to shrimp, whoever desires it can dump it on.
2. The italian word for shrimp is actually gambero (pl. gamberi), but we mustn’t forget the diminutive gamberetti (very little) and of course, the very large gamberoni. If you happen to find yourself in a restaurant in Italy and order a dish of say, Gamberoni all’Americana (only an example), don’t be surprised if you get a plate of the largest frickin’ shrimp ever because the heads/tails have been left intact. They know we americans do things in a big way. I’d start getting busy with a fork and steak knife.
3. Scampi are technically not shrimp, but instead, another species of crustacean with pincer claws. They have a sweet flesh similiar to lobster — and they don’t come cheap. The one above was priced at 29.90 euros/kilo (around $17.50/lb), or $4.50 each. At our fishmonger, I’ve seen scampi that were hauled from waters surrounding Lampedusa, a tiny island south of Sicily. They were even larger, with a price tag to match as well (I think 68€/kilo). Even in Italy, plain shrimp is much more economical to cook with.