The centuries-old Festa dei Sette Pesci, or Feast of the Seven Fishes, honors the Italian tradition during which no meat is served prior to a religious holiday. The Christmas Eve celebration (also known as The Vigil, or La Vigilia), has also become a popular Italian-American experience with a classic menu of seven types of fish and seafood. Here are 12 restaurants serving the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve that we think ‘yule’ love.
Sea Fire Grill, New York, New York
With a name like Sea Fire Grill, it’s no wonder that chef Jesus Nunez’s special Christmas Eve dinner menu will have a splashy lineup of ocean-fresh seafood and fish — dishes like Coho salmon and scallop carpaccio, spicy lobster open-faced ravioli with smoked trout eggs, and clams beurre blanc. Make a reservation at the Sea Fire Grill.
Sulmona, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chef Delio Susi’s Christmas Eve mermaid-approved feast stars not only fruits of the sea, but — wait for it — a rare, organic extra virgin olive oil from the chef’s family vines in Sicily. The oil is used in a sea urchin dish (garlic, chilies, uni butter, and bucatini) and the Zio cocktail (which is a shout-out to the chef’s uncle Guy) and is made with Colombian oregano, Italicus, Aperol, fresh grapefruit juice, Nolet’s gin, and that EVOO. Make a reservation at Sulmona.
Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
Chef Amy Brandwein’s Christmas Eve dinner ups the ante with 10 fish dishes served in four family-style courses. Favorites include Baccala (Venetian-style whipped cod with grilled polenta), Ostriche (wood-roasted Virginia oysters and nduja butter), and Neri (“Italian ramen” squid ink, shrimp, clams, octopus, cod, and branzino). Chef cooks over a wood fire — adding even more warmth to a special winter night. Make a reservation at Centrolina.
Cal Mare, Los Angeles, California
In the belly of the newly redesigned Beverly Center, your meal will include showstoppers like Crudo di Capasante (diver scallops, semolina, apple, kohlrabi, and lime), Specialita Della Casa (handmade mozzarella, honey, zeppola, and caviar), and Branzino e Tartufo (turnips, black truffle, winter cabbage, and black trumpet). Make a reservation at Cal Mare.
Gato, New York, New York
Chef Bobby Flay’s Noho restaurant slays the fish feast with dishes like shrimp & salt cod fritter with Romesco, whole prawns with garlic, thyme and Calabrian chile, handmade black squid Ink pasta with lobster and crab fra diavolo, and steamed halibut with Sicilian olives, mint, anchovy, saffron-tomato broth, and couscous. Make a reservation at Gato.
Davio’s, Boston, Massachusetts
Davio’s is celebrating its Italian roots with a Feast of the Seven Fishes prix-fixe menu, that includes Spaghettini with Nantucket Bay scallops (with leeks and black truffle cream) and Piatto della Vigilia (pan-roasted Georges Bank codfish, Maine lobster, Salter potatoes, and saffron rouille). Davio’s Manhattan is also serving a Christmas Eve feast. Make a reservation at Davio’s.
Pesce e Riso, San Francisco, California
Chef-owner Joe Lin’s six-course menu standouts include West Coast oysters, spicy tuna tartare, local halibut carpaccio, cured hamachi, Udon ai Frutti di Mare (local squid, wild East Coast scallops, Mediterranean mussels, and Gulf prawns), and Half Black Pepper Miso Dungeness Crab, plus an optional wine pairing. Make a reservation at Pesce e Riso.
Bar Mezzana, Boston, Massachusetts
Chef Colin Lynch and his elves are collaborating with Browne Trading in Maine (a long-running fishing and caviar family business), for a feast including Nantucket Bay scallop crudo, smoked mackerel, grilled sardines with vinegar peppers, fried calamari, baked clams oreganata, spaghetti with mussels and garlic, and grilled swordfish with eggplant and raisin. Make a reservation at Bar Mezzana.
Tratto, San Francisco, California
This modern Bay Area trattoria at The Marker hotel puts a seasonal spin on the classic La Vigilia with chef de cuisine Robert Birnschein’s seafood-centric dishes and thoughtful wine pairings, too. Selections include oven-roasted clams, Hamachi crudo, pan-seared scallops, lobster risotto, whole-roasted trout, seafood stew, and more. Make a reservation at Tratto.
Vic’s, New York, New York
Chef Hillary Sterling will serve a Venetian-inspired Feast of the Seven Fishes menu that’s fit for a king. The prix-fixe meal stars holiday dishes like scallops gratinato (lemon, brown butter, Parmigiano), risotto (Meyer lemons and littleneck clams), poached cod (with polenta, peverada, and treviso) and, for dessert, a good tiding of tiramisu. Make a reservation at Vic’s.
Il Verdi-The Tropicana, Atlantic City, New Jersey
A win-win five-course dinner with dishes such as Vongole e Cozze al Basilico (steamed littleneck clams and mussels, heirloom garlic, fennel, and basil in a white wine butter sauce), Langoustine Grigliato (whole head-on grilled langoustines with a roasted tomato caper butter over angel hair pasta) and Scampi alla Verdi (sautéed shrimp, sundried tomatoes, broccolini, scampi sauce, and housemade basil linguini). Make a reservation at Il Verdi-The Tropicana.
Trattoria Zooma, Providence, Rhode Island
The Ocean State knows a thing or two about fish, and this restaurant stays true to the sea, as well as the Old Country with dishes ranging from Zuppa (lobster bisque) and Italian Seafood Salad (antipasti of marinated squid, baby octopus and sea snails, grilled crostini, and mixed greens) to Spaghetti Alla Vigilia and Salmon Alla Griglia (local mussels and baby clams, wood-grilled Atlantic salmon, pinot grigio, and tomato brodo). Make a reservation at Trattoria Zooma.
Are you celebrating Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes? Tell us where you’re headed here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Photo credits: Eric Luciano (Sulmona); Brian Samuels (Bar Mezzana); Kristen Loken (Pesce e Riso).