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.
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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
email@example.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.
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.
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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.