A World-Famous Fishmonger’s Recipe for Nantucket Bay Scallops

Citarella owner Joe Gurrera, the author of "Joe Knows Fish: Taking the Intimidation out of Cooking Seafood," shares his tips and tricks

December 30, 2021 8:33 am
Nantucket Bay scallops are about the size of a thimble
Nantucket Bay scallops are about the size of a thimble.

If the man from Nantucket had kept his Massachusetts island’s namesake scallops in his bucket instead of cash, perhaps his daughter Nan would have stayed on Cape Cod instead of running away to Rhode Island with an unnamed Pawtucket resident.

Only available from November to March, thimble-sized Nantucket Bay scallops are more tender than sea scallops and are so sweet that some people enjoy eating them raw as if they were holiday candies. In addition to consuming them in that manner, Citarella owner Joe Gurrera serves them during his family’s annual Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

“The first time I had them was over 35 years ago. I tried them raw and I was blown away,” Gurrera the author of Joe Knows Fish: Taking the Intimidation out of Cooking Seafood, tells InsideHook. “They are truly a delicacy and I’ve been hooked ever since. Nantucket Bay scallops are in a league of their own. Their scarcity is partly what makes them so special, though it’s mostly the flavor.”

Described as “sweet, buttery and delicious” by Gurrera, that flavor sets Nantucket Bay scallops apart from the rest of the pack, as does their size, sweetness and texture.

“The texture is creamy and delicious, unlike any other scallop variety,” Gurrera says. “Their small size makes them especially delectable and fun to eat. This is all-natural stuff — they’re not manufactured. As the name indicates, these are harvested from shallow bay water along the East Coast of the U.S. as opposed to deep ocean water, so that likely has something to do with it. There’s nothing better when it comes to scallops. Regular sea scallops are terrific too, but they don’t have the same sweetness or buttery texture.”

While Gurrera doesn’t know why Nantucket Bay scallops are so small or so scarce — “that’s a question for 1-800-GOD” — he does know they rank somewhere in the top five of his all-time favorite fish dishes. “That’s saying a lot since I deal in all types of seafood,” he says. “Their extreme seasonality and unmatched flavor really set them apart.” 

Especially if they are sautéed using Gurrera’s personal recipe …

Fishmonger Joe Gurrera’s sautéed Nantucket Bay scallops
Fishmonger Joe Gurrera’s sautéed Nantucket Bay scallops.

Joe Gurrera’s Sautéed Nantucket Bay Scallops


  • 2 pounds raw Nantucket bay scallops
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season them with salt.
  2. In a medium sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil until it starts to shimmer.
  3. Briefly shake the pan as you add the scallops. The friction from the scallops moving in the pan will prevent them from sticking.
  4. At this point, don’t touch them. Let them sear and caramelize to a golden brown, about two minutes total.
  5. Serve immediately. The recipe serves four.


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