A Feast of Fish For Christmas Eve (Updated)

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014 12:00pm

feast of the seven fishes

For Southern Italians and Italian-Americans, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a feast — 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.

The number of fish seems to be more of an Italian-American thing according to Montclair resident Sara Villa, who grew up in Genoa, but has a mother from Naples in the south:

“For us it’s not really the seven fishes but we do have a dinner with just fish; fish salad (octopus, crab meat, shrimps and calamari, pasta with clams or mussels and maybe some baked Branzino.”

Tessa Aniello Vining of Montclair, whose family hails from Sicily and other parts of southern Italy, says there is no set number of dishes, but the meal is “a mix of a lot of different things like eel, shrimp, cod, calamari, anchovies, etc.”

Cathy Turiano Patullo of Montclair has in-laws from Boiano, near Naples, a mom from the Marche region, and a dad from Calabria — so you can be sure they feast on fishes on Christmas Eve! Patullo says you can have seven fish for the seven sacraments, 13 fish for the apostles and Jesus, or three for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “My in-laws just make lots of fish!”

For others, seven is the tradition. Ashley DiGeronimo of Montclair spends Christmas Eve with her husband’s family who hail from Calabria in the south. Their feast has seven fishes.

For Italian-American Justin Mannato of Montclair, seven is the number and keeping the tradition is important. He wrote about the significance here on his blog years ago.

No matter how many fishes you eat on Christmas Eve, you can enjoy a Feast of the Seven Fishes at these local restaurants or enjoy it at home with the help of these markets:



The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield will offer Chef Francesco Palmieri’s Seven Fishes Dinner of Charred Baby Octopus, Bay Scallops Crudo, Crispy Salmon Cake, Spicy Mussels Marinara, BBQ Skate “Ribs”, Smoky Tuna, and Bronzino Filet.

Seven Fishes Dinner at The Orange Squirrel
Wednesday, December 24
The Orange Squirrel, 412 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ
$70 pp plus tax and 20 percent gratuity. Reservations 973.337.6421



Feast of the Seven Fishes

In addition to a la carte menu at Fresco, on Christmas Eve, these seven fishes will be on a special menu: Little Neck Clams with Pancetta Herb Butter, Grilled Octopus, Baccala Salad (Salted Cod), Branzino, Zuppa Di Pesce, Linguini White Clams, and Marinated Fresh Anchovies.

Seven Fishes Dinner at Fresco
Wednesday, December 24
Fresco, 15 Church Street, Montclair, NJ, 07042
Reservations 973.337.5100



feast of the seven fishes

Cielo in Fairfield will offer Chef Anthony Pucciarello’s traditonal Feast of the Seven Fishes menu featuring Scungilli Fra Diavlo, Gabadone (eel), Baccala Aalad, Zuppe de Pesce, Friti Misto, St. Peter’s Fosh, and more!

Seven Fishes Dinner at Cielo Restaurant
Wednesday, December 24
Cielo, 168 Passaic Avenue, Fairfield, NJ
Reservations 973.808.1414


The Feast of the Seven Fishes.At MEAL in Nutley, Chef Mark will be offering an exciting menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes – MEAL style! Seven special seafood specials will be available, such as lobster bisque, mussels “diablo” or sweet, and crab cakes. The full menu will be available as well.

Seven Fishes Dinner at MEAL
Wednesday, December 24
MEAL, 433 Kingsland Street, Nutley, NJ
Reservations 973.542.8522




Feast of the Seven FishesWhole Foods Market Montclair is offering a special Feast of the Seven Fishes deal this year. For the first time in Whole Foods Market History you can get all seven of the traditional fishes for one great price of $140 (Serves 10-12 people). The feast includes: 2 lbs of Mussels, 25 Littleneck Clams, 2 lbs Wild Shrimp, 2 lbs Bay Scallops, 2 ½ lbs Squid Tubes & Tentacles, 2 lbs Monkfish Loin, 2 lbs Cod Fillet, 1 25 oz jar of Jersey Italian Gravy, and 4 Lemons

Whole Foods Market Montclair Feast of the Seven Fishes Ingredients
701 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ, 07042
$140 Order online here



Feast of the Seven Fishes

Corrado’s Market, which has locations in Clifton, Wayne, and Fairfield, offers an Assorted Seafood Platter for $199 (large) and $119 (small) and many Seafood entrees, such as Fillet of Cod in a Tomato Cilantro Confit, Pesce di Limone, and Lobster Ravioli in Sage Lemon Butter.

Corrado’s Market Catering
Clifton, Wayne and Fairfield locations, various seafood offerings and prices
Check out the full catering menu here


ArianeDuarteChef Ariane Duarte of Ariane Kitchen & Bar offers her favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes recipe:

One of my favorite Christmas Eve recipes is my grandmother’s salted cod salad, aka Bacalao. I don’t use salt cod these days, because I find that I love the fresh cod filet.

Merry Christmas! Happy cooking!

Bacalao (Salted Cod Salad)

  • 2-3 lbs. fresh cod fillet (bones removed)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4c red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced thin
  • 1/4c sweet vinegar red peppers
  • 1/4c niscoise olives ( pit removed) halved
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Lay cod filet on sheet pan.
Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with 2T of the olive oil and juice of one lemon.
Bake at 325° for 8-12 minutes depending on thickness of filet.
Let cool.
Place in bowl add rest of ingredients. Mix well. Cod will break up.
Taste for seasoning.
Let sit in refrigerator over night so flavors really develop.



Do you enjoy a The Feast of Seven (or more) Fishes on Christmas Eve?

(Top photo: Flickr)


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