Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes History Menu Ideas Recipes Modern Food – Meaning with Why What & When Information

Greetings from 123greetingsquotes.com. On Christmas Eve, or La Vigilia, Southern Italians prepare a massive multicourse banquet known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Though it is a tradition most popular in the South, it’s common all around Italy to mangia on seafood for the Christmas holiday.

 December 24

 Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes History Menu Ideas Recipes Modern Food - Meaning with Why What & When Information

History of Feast of seven fishes 🙂 

In America, we call this meal the Feast of Seven Fishes, and if you’re Italian, you probably remember long dinners around some elder’s table with the catch of the day soaked in fragrant, tangy marinara.Italians know how to eat. Particularly during Christmastime, those meals become bigger and better.

There’s still plenty of that going on, but many New York restaurants are taking the tradition and dressing it in fancy new clothes.


This year’s menus bring seared scallops (pictured above) at Take Root, charred Spanish octopus at Saul, yellowtail crudo at Scarpetta, and cuttlefish with potato at Louro, as well as a host of classic offerings at red-sauce havens like Rubirosa and Red Gravy.

Aside from being one of the only times “fishes” is a proper term, the Feast of the Seven Fishes — or “Esta dei Sette Pesci” as they say in the old country — is one of the most delicious Italian-American traditions, at least for those who love seafood. Besides being utterly tasty, there is also a fun history behind the Christmas banquet.

Even though it’s known as an Italian tradition, it’s not well known in the northern part of the country. Apparently it started in Naples and Sicily. In fact, not too much is known about the origins of the tradition but there are two main things that ring true: It’s about family and seafood.

So here’s what else we know: When Italians immigrated to America, they brought their tradition. Catholic Italians abstain from eating meat on Christmas Eve, so instead they indulge in “frutta di mare,” or seafood.

Some of the popular dishes contain octopus (pupa), calamari (squid), baccala (cod), scallops, blue crab, eel, clams, scungilli (conch), shrimp, smelt, and many other species. The seafood bonanza is the result of the biblical admonition against eating meat and dairy products on Christmas Eve. That means no butter either.

Besides abstaining from meat and dairy until Midnight Mass, religion gets further involved in the tradition with the number of fish consumed. Some families stick with seven and others indulge in as many as 13!

Though seven is the popular number, it has numerous meanings. Seven could be a reference to the creation story, or could stand for the seven sacraments or the seven virtues of Christian theology. Some even say it’s a reminder of the seven deadly sins.

One thing is certain: Different families will serve different combinations. Those who have 13 types of seafood believe they are representing the 12 apostles and Jesus. Some will leave out Jesus and Judas and just serve 11 varieties. There are even families who don’t go overboard with the tradition and simply serve three, representing the Holy Trinity and the Three Wise Men.

Modern feast of seven fishes

There’s still plenty of feasts going on, but many New York restaurants are taking the tradition and dressing it in fancy new clothes.

No matter how many types of fish you eat, mangia bene tutti and Buona Natale!

Menu for Feast of seven fishes

  • Baccala Salad

  • Pasta con le Sarde

  • Calamari with Potatoes and Peas

  • Stuffed Calamari

  • SautĂ©ed Sole with Olives

  • Whole Roasted Branzino with Fennel and Onions

  • Lobster Fra Diavolo

  • Shrimp Scampi

Feast of seven fishes dishes Ideas

Inspiration for this menu comes from Greg Ferro’s story about Christmas Eve with his Italian-American family in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.”

For antipasti ideas, see Dana Bowen’s “The Art of Antipasti.”

The Sautéed Sole, topped with a tapenade-like olive paste, tastes delicious paired with Roasted Potatoes.

A proper Italian-American holiday feast should feature plenty of desserts, from Tiramisu to Italian-American Christmas Cookies, and more.

Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes History Menu Ideas Recipes Modern Food – Meaning with Why What & When Information

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