In Rhode Island, stuffed clams are a delicacy that can be catered to any taste, though the basic ingredients that make them “stuffies” always stay the same.
Although you’ll find many versions of stuffed clams around New England, it’s only in Li’l Rhody that they’re called “stuffies,” and there are as many variations of them within the borders of this tiny state as there are delis, pizza shops, grocery stores, seafood shacks, fish markets, and upscale eateries to make them.
As with many other bread-based dishes, stuffed clams came into existence to stretch budgets and to provide carb-stoking meals for fishermen, farmers, and other long-day laborers. In Rhode Island, stuffies begin with quahogs, the clams in those big shells with the purple markings inside, once polished for wampum by Native Americans.
To make stuffies, you first shuck the quahogs, capture their juice, and add some extra clam juice to moisten the bread cubes or cracker crumbs. Some stuffie cooks add chopped onion, celery, and sweet or hot peppers; some spice the mix like Thanksgiving stuffing; others make a Portuguese stew, complete with chourico. Still others swear that true stuffed clams should taste only like chopped quahogs and clam-juice-soaked bread–just add your own hot sauce or lemon juice on top. One old-timer, who once made thousands of stuffies by hand at his Warwick fish market years ago, used to say, “Putting sausage in a stuffie is like putting raisins in meatballs.” So there you have it—something for every taste, simple to spicy.
Where to get Stuffed Clams in Rhode Island:
Amaral’s Fish and Chips
For your basic stuffed clams, head to Amaral’s. This shop prides itself on letting the seafood shine through: delectable clams seasoned with onion, celery, and spices, crispy on the top from baking in a hot oven.
4 Redmond St., Warren, RI. 401-247-0675; amaralsfishandchips.com
Besides “basic” stuffies, these folks also offer “casino stuffies” with bacon and “Portuguese stuffies” with chourico and a hint of green pepper.
256 Great Island Road, Narragansett, RI. 401-783-3152; champlins.com
Quito’s Restaurant & Bar
Quito’s makes its stuffies with an even smokier taste. They’re about the same size as Champlin’s; the texture’s a bit heavier, but they’re still quite good.
411 Thames St., Bristol, RI. 401-253-4500; quitosrestaurant.com
Anthony’s stuffies come in both mild and hot options: roasted peppers in the low-key version, cherry peppers in the spicier one. Both include a bit of chourico and a ton of chopped clams.
963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown, RI. 401-846-9620, 401-848-5058; anthonysseafood.net
The Commons Lunch
Commons’ stuffed clams come in heaping portions–a bit spicy, with lots of clams, and both regular sausage and chourico, keeping the dish moist and meaty.
48 Commons, Little Compton, RI. 401-635-4388.