Where to Enjoy the Traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes in LA

Mixed Seafood Salad, Celestino Ristorante (Photo Credit: Moretti Photo)

Mixed Seafood Salad, Celestino Ristorante
(Photo Credit: Moretti Photo)

Here in Southern California, most of us celebrate Christmas Eve with tamales. But that is not the only game in town. Italian-Americans go all out for Christmas Eve with The Feast of the Seven Fishes. The tradition, called The Vigil (La Vigilia), originated in Southern Italy. Most Roman Catholic holy days require abstainance from red meat, which probably explains all of the seafood. It is unclear when seven became the proscribed number of dishes, but seven courses sounds good to me. Here is a quick roundup. Make your reservations now.

CELESTINO RISTORANTE. Pasadena

$68.00 per person. 5pm to 10pm

A traditional Italian “Feast of Seven Fishes” menu has been created by Chef Calogero Drago, known for his decadent seafood pastas. Dishes include:

Insalata Frutti di Mare marinata all olio e limone (a light mixed seafood salad)

Risotto con Fave Ricci di Mare (Arborio rice with sea urchin and fava beans)

Filetto di Nasello con Mesticanze di Verdure e Salsa di Peperoni (Chilean Sea Bass plated with an assortment of seasonal vegetables in a timball and bell pepper sauce)

Cioppino Alla Mediterranea (a traditional mixed seafood stew in a rich, tomato-wine sauce)

Each dish on this festive menu will also be offered à la carte.

DRAGO CENTRO DTLA

$85 per person. 5pm to 10pm

Celestino Drago’s elegant restaurant in downtown’s City National Plaza will have an entirely different menu, consisting of:

The Quartet of the Sea: kusshi oyster, sturgeon caviar, octopus and smoked salmon

Lobster cioppino with black cod, mussels and clams

Fresh tagallini with jumbo lump crab and spicy marinara

Seared yellowfin tuna is served with barolo risotto and crispy sage

Drago Centro will be serving cherry and pistachio clafouties with whipped cream for dessert. There is an optional $60 wine pairing.

THE LOBSTER Santa Monica

$90 per person

The Lobster in Santa Monica sounds like the perfect place to enjoy a traditional ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes.’ The menu includes:

Baked Littleneck Clams

Fritto Misto & Salmon Rillette Bruschetta

Grilled Branzino and Crab & Sea Urchin Squid Ink Linguini

With wine pairings for an additional $25.

MARE Los Angeles

$50 per person. 12/21 – 12/27 Sun – Thurs (5pm-11pm) Fri & Sat  (5pm-12am)

Mare, a patio restaurant which must be entered through Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese like some kind of backyard speakeasy, will be offering the Feast of the Seven Fishes menu as a nightly special from December 21-27.

Scallop crudo with grapefruit and chilies; cod fritters with spicy pepper sauce and Meyer lemon

Crispy octopus with kale and persimmon salad

Clams with saffron, grapes and radicchio

Crab and uni risotto

Sole with olive tapenade and braised lettuces

Whole snapper with blood orange-caper puttanesca

The meal will conclude with assorted zeppole. All of the dishes are also priced a la carte.

OSTERIA MOZZA Los Angeles

$85 per person. 7 pm

Everyone knows that Osteria Mozza from Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali is the hottest ticket in town. To reserve, please contact Special Events Director Nicole White
nwhite@mozza-la.com or (323) 866-5290. Do it now. The Feast of the Seven Fishes will be served in the Primo Ministro Room and will be prepared by Executive Chef Elizabeth Hong and Executive Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez. The five-course meal includes:

Mozzarella di bufala with cetera anchovies, bagna cauda, charred broccolini and crispy beans;

Farfalle aglio e olio with bottarga

salt-baked sea trout with condimenti and garlicky wilted spinach

The meal will conclude with a fancy French bûche de Noël (Yule log). I know, you just want the budino, but a bûche de Noël is pretty damned special. There is an optional $50 wine pairing.

PISTOLA Los Angeles

6pm to 10pm

If are too antsy to sit through a five-course meal, Pistola’s Chef Vic Casanova crams all the fish you need in one gorgeous Zuppa di Pesce. The swank restaurant harkens back to the Italian comfort food of the 50s as found in New York City. Using ingredients from all over Italy alongside local, predominately organic ingredients, Pistola hopes to marry the past, present and future of Italian cuisine. The traditional fish soup contains Calamari, Mussels, Clams, Branzino, Snapper, Cod and Jumbo Shrimp. Count ’em, that’s seven fish right there, and you’re good. Although you should probably also order some cannoli.

PROVIDENCE Los Angeles

$140 per person. 4pm to 8pm

We love Providence’s fresh and beautifully executed seafood. And we love Chef Michael Cimarusti. How could you do any better than dishes inspired by his Grandmother Josephine and Great Grandmother Domenica? Plus, Providence uses sutainable seafood. The eight courses include:

Crispy polenta and caviar Bolognese

Maine lobster grilled in the shell and smoked puree of chestnut

Nancy’s hand-harvested sea scallop with black truffle vinaigrette, scallop nage, crispy buckwheat

Grilled striped bass with roasted winter squash

There will also be a $60 wine pairing. Reservations and credit card confirmation are required.

THE RESTAURANT AT MR. C Beverly Hills

$89 per person. 11am to 11pm

Mr C is only serving four courses instead of the traditional seven, but I have a feeling they are not going to skimp. “Paying homage to the Italian “Feast of the Seven Fishes” celebration, the Christmas Eve menu features:

A Trio of Marinated Halibut, Shrimp, and Tuna Tartar

Black Squid Ink Risotto alla Cipriani

Wild Branzino over Flat Pea Pods with Cherry Tomato and Caper Sauce

Start your meal off with mugs of Vin Brulè ($14), an Italian version of hot spiced wine.

UNION Pasadena

$125 per person. 4pm to 10pm

Celebrated Chef Bruce Kalman’s intimate restaurant has an innovative menu using both traditional and nontraditional ingredients. The influence of his upcoming restaurant in Grand Central Market called Knead & Co. shows in the two courses of pasta.

Escabeche of Sardines, stewed beans, crostini

Squid Ink Maccheroni alla Chitarra, baccala, roasted tomatoes, uni

Olive Oil Poached Albacore, insalata trecolore, soft boiled duck egg

Baby Octopus, Tuscan potatoes, smoked almond romesco

Ricotta Cavatelli, ridge back prawns, wild mushroom fricassee

Farro Crusted Sea Scallop, tomato, Calabrian chile

Branzino, farro, artichokes, olives, Salmoriglio

Add wine pairings for  $40. Call the restaurant to purchase tickets. 626-795-5841. Advanced ticket sales only.

VALENTINO Santa Monica

$105 per person. 5pm to 10pm

Old school Italian restaurant Valentino has been around since 1972. Piero Selvaggio and Executive Chef Tommaso Tarantino emphasize that they have created a modern Italian Christmas Eve feast, with each course having two options. Some of the courses to choose between are:

Baccala Mantecato all’Olio Ligure 

Crudo of Diver Scallop with Pistachios

Warm Maine Lobster Salad with Spiced Sicilian Couscous 

Squid Ink Ravioli with Seafood Ragu and Winter Vegetables 

Dorade Royale with Sea Urchin-Crustacean Bisque

A classic Panettone Pudding with Gelato and Berries concludes the evening. Valentino will offer optional wine pairings from specialty producers selected by Piero Selvaggio from his legendary wine cellar.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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