Christmas is a-coming, and while the kiddies might be all excited about Santa Claus’s visit, the more food-focused will be looking forward to the Feast of the Seven Fishes, one of the most gluttonous culinary traditions of the season. Having originated in Southern Italy, the feast, also known as la vigilia (the vigil), features a bountiful spread of seven different fish dishes. But there’s no need to pack your bags for Naples just yet. Many New York City restaurants will be offering a seafood spread this holiday season. Here are seven picks for your Feast of the Seven Fishes. Or one ginormous 49-course extravaganza.
The James Beard House is offering a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner tomorrow evening at 7 by chef Mike Stollenwerk of Fish restaurant in Philadelphia. The wine-paired dinner ain’t cheap at $170 per person ($130 for James Beard Foundation members), but anyone who’s been to a dinner at the Beard House knows that the booze flows. And flows. And flows. The meal will begin with a cocktail hour featuring an assortment of canapés, including cured tuna with anchovy vinaigrette, baked clams, octopus arancini, and salt cod with potato butter. But then the real eating begins. The multi-course feast will offer eel escabèche with blood oranges and picholine olives; Carolina shrimp with butterscotch beans, cardoons, and cabbage mostarda; crab sausage and peppers with cavatelli; fried smelts with semolina, kale, and smoked eggplant puree; salt-roasted swordfish with porcini mushrooms and roasted cipollini gremolata; and dessert offers a limoncello baba with fennel, pistachio, and black olives.
Can’t shell out that much dough? For a reasonable $45 per person, East Village newcomer Zi’Pep will be hosting a festive meal on Christmas Eve, featuring crostini with buffalo mozzarella, white anchovy, and oregano; baccala salad with Yukon potatoes; grilled sardines with pine nuts and fennel pollen; sweet-and-sour eel; sautéed New Zealand clams with pepperoncini, white wine, and basil; lobster ravioli with mascarpone; and branzino with olive-oil crushed potatoes and Sicilian capers.
Also exclusively on Christmas Eve, Hearth will be dishing up a special menu. Up Marco Canora’s sleeve: clams oreganata and baccala crostini (because, as he writes on the menu, salt cod is the one dish that must be a part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes). White anchovies with arugula and grilled calamari salad with smoked chick peas and black olives come next. The third course is shrimp and mussel cacciucco (a Tuscan stew) and fried flounder with lemon and parsley, and the evening ends with dark chocolate budino and biscotti. Dinner is $65 per person.
Patsy’s will be celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes from December 16 through 24. Its menu, which will cost $59.95 per person, will include a choice of calamari or baccala salad; a half-order of linguine with seafood sauce; and a choice of shrimp scampi, stuffed calamari, shrimp fra diavolo, or tilapia Livornese — we’re not really counting seven different types of fish on that menu, but perhaps the seafood sauce features a bunch of various crustaceans for a total of seven. Dessert will be homemade strufoli (honey balls) or biscotti.
Flatiron restaurant SD26 will be offering a $90, five-course menu during all of Christmas week (December 19-25) in addition to its regular menu. The festivities begin with baccala with potato rosti, followed by tagliolini with Sicilian red shrimp bisque and oven-dried tomatoes. A selection of grilled scampi, octopus, swordfish, branzino, seppia, and calamari with punaterelle salad serves as the entrée. Follow that up with perbellini pannetone and finally petits fours and coffee.
Want to celebrate for longer than one week? Located in the Maritime Hotel, La Bottega will be offering its selection of plates throughout December, available as a whole feast or as à la carte menu items. For the $75 set dinner, you get crab-filled pasta served in tarragon shellfish broth; salad of marinated shrimp, calamari, baby octopus, and conch; baked top neck clams; linguine with lobster, roasted tomato, and chilies; mixed seafood stew; seared sea scallops with Brussels sprouts, crispy pancetta, and watercress; pannetone with coffee gelato; and cannoli, because one dessert is never enough.
And finally, Lupa will celebrate la vigilia from noon until 9:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve in addition to offering a limited selection of dishes off its regular menu. Although slightly pricier than some options, this Greenwich Village osteria dishes up some seriously good food, and their $85 menu ($130 with wine pairing) goes all out. You’ll begin with a red snapper crudo with Meyer lemon and Aleppo pepper, followed by fried, baccala-stuffed peppers and charred mackerel with roasted onions and grapefruit agrodolce. After that, carboload with risotto with clams and mussels, followed by cavatelli with crab, seppia, and sea urchin. Olive-oil-braised halibut comes next, followed by eel in zimino with fried chickpeas. And you’ll end the evening with chocolate and apricot biscotti bread pudding. And, perhaps, as is likely the case with all of these dinners, five pounds heavier than when you arrived.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 6, 2011