For Southern Italians and Italian-Americans, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a Feast of the Seven Fishes. The special meal typically consists of seven (for the seven sacraments) different seafood dishes and is believed to have originated in Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat or milk products on Fridays, and on the day before Holy days like Christmas.
Local Italian-Americans shared how they celebrate with us here. The number of how many fishes one actually eats seems to vary, however no matter how many fishes you eat on Christmas Eve, you can enjoy a Feast of the Seven Fishes at these local restaurants:
In addition to a la carte menu at Fresco Da Franco (15 Church Street, Montclair) , on Christmas Eve, a traditional seven fishes will be offered on a special menu. Reservations 973.337.5100
Sátis Bistro (289 Glenwood Avenue, Bloomfield) will be serving a special Seven Fishes Dinner, as well as its regular menu, on Christmas Eve. Reservations 973.743.1097.
Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas (70 Kingsland Road, Clifton) will celebrate the Italian-American holiday tradition for 17 days leading up to Christmas with a tapas-style seven-course menu developed by its executive chef, including wine pairings to complement each dish. The full menu includes:
- Grappa Cured Salmon – Cucumber, radish, chive cream. Paired with a Rosé, Chateau Pas du Cerf.
- Salt Cod Fritter – Smoked aioli, fried sage. Paired with an Etna Blanco, Murgo.
- Cold Octopus Salad – Cannellini beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes, lemon-thyme aioli. Paired with a Fiano, Li Veli.
- Warm Caesar “Salad” – Sautéed baby red romaine, crispy white anchovy, Parmesan. Paired with a Trebbiano, Saladini Pilastri ‘Falerio’
- Squid Ink Campanelle Con Ragu di Mare – Seafood ragu, seared shrimp, cream and basil. Paired with an Etna Rosso, Salapuruta “Lavico”
- Bronzino – Pan-seared with salmoriglio sauce. Paired with a Corvina, Scaia.
- Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish – Stewed onions, fennel, Granny Smith apples, cannellini beans, white wine, cherry tomatoes. Paired with a Super Tuscan, Le Sughere Frassinello.
The tasting menu is available for $55 per person, or $75 including wine pairings. Menu items are also available a la carte. Reservations online here.
(Top photo: Fresco Da Franco)