This year, why not celebrate Notte di Natale (Christmas Eve), with the traditional Italian fish and seafood dinner known as Festa dei Sette Pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes)? In Italy, the meal is known as Vigilia di Natale — the meat-abstinence vigil awaiting the midnight birth of baby Jesus. And while the Feast of the Seven Fishes originated in Southern Italy, it is more often celebrated now in the United States. Here are festive Christmas Eve spots in New England that will be serving bountiful Feast of the Seven Fishes meals — including restaurants in traditionally Italian neighborhoods like Boston’s North End and Providence’s Federal Hill. Buon appetito!
On Christmas Eve, Chef Pino Maffeo will unwrap his Feast of the Seven Fishes a la carte menu at his newly opened Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End. The a la carte menu will star dishes like Whiting with lemon, olive oil, and young garlic; fried local smelts with sea salt and lemon; stuffed calamari with preserved tomato; baccala with tomatoes, potatoes, braised sweet onion and bay leaves; and whole grilled fish with wild herbs, extra-virgin oil, sea salt and braised chicory. The dishes are priced between $15 and $30, and will be served from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call 857-277-1895.
This Somerville restaurant in Davis Square will celebrate Christmas Eve with a five-course, prix-fixe traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. Dishes include: trio of antipasti including cotuit oyster and persimmon agrodolce, scallop crudo with tomato caviar, and citrus chili-marinated mussel toast; olive oil-poached halibut; salt cod tortellini; and seared snapper with lobster risotto. For dessert: Christmas cookies or semolina cake with candied fruits and Frangelico zabaglione. The feast is available from 5 p.m. until close. Cost: $65 per person — with an additional optional $35 wine pairing. To reserve, call 617-625-0600.
Gather in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood on Christmas Eve to celebrate the restaurant’s Inaugural Feast of the Seven Fishes — with Italian music including selections from “The Godfather” soundtrack as a backdrop. Chef Meghann Ward and Kevin Walsh’s celebratory eight-course (including dessert) menu will include: fried smelts with cacio e pepe panisse, fried lemon, and aioli; braised octopus with fregola, broccoli rabe, Calabrian chiles, almonds, orange and mint; eel and chickpea stew, agrodolce style; and other fish dishes. Dessert: Panettone bread pudding served with rum raisin ice cream. The special meal will be served from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and will cost $65 per person with an additional wine pairing cost. To reserve, call 617-421-4470.
Saltie Girl is the new kid in Boston’s Newbury Street neighborhood, and the tin-sized 30-seat restaurant will serve its inaugural Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Dishes, including a two-ounce pour with each dish. The sea-centric feast features warm oysters and chilled oysters with caviar; marinated white anchovies with black garlic toast, smoked tomato and salsa verde; baked clam stuffies; fried fisherman’s box (sweet ebi, squid, local cod, Nantucket Bay scallops); charred octopus with artichokes, Serrano ham and piquillo peppers; Lobster Puttanesca on Bucatini; and whole roasted loup de mer with steamed cockles, hen of the woods, and crispy root vegetables. For dessert: Tinned Chocolate Soufflé. Seating is at 8 p.m. and the cost is $120 per person, $165 with wine pairing. To reserve, go tosaltiefeast.eventbrite.com
Located in the Little Italy of Providence, Federal Hill, this Southern Italian restaurant will celebrate Christmas Eve with a festive La Vigilia menu — a three-course dinner featuring seven types of fish. The courses include clam and shrimp chowder (tomato corn broth, potato, fresh dill); Italian seafood salad (marinated squid, baby octopus and sea snails, grilled crostini, mixed greens, lemon vinaigrette); and Spaghetti alla Vigilia (mussels, clams, and seasonal white fish, Pinot Grigio tomato broth). The dinner is available until 9 p.m. Cost: $52 per person. To reserve, call 401-383-2002.
Located in a converted firehouse in Belmont, with a second location in Lexington, both Il Casale restaurants will feature a four-course, prix-fixe Festa di Pesce per la Vigilia di Natale (Feast of the Seven Fishes) menu on Christmas Eve. The dinner will feature century-old dishes from closely-guarded recipes of chef Dante di Magistri and co-owner brothers Damian and Filippo. The courses: Grande Antipasto di Mare (grilled shrimp cocktail, fried calamari, clam oreganata, octopus salad, and baccala fritter); Capelli d’Angelo “aglio e olio angel hair pasta, garlic, evoo, anchovy, capers, pine nuts and golden raisins; and Merluzzo (poached cod in rosemary broth). And for dessert: Mostaccioli and zeppola dei poveri (chocolate dry fruit “cookie cake” and Neapolitan fritters with orange pastry cream). The dinner will be served from 4 to 9 p.m. Cost: $65 per person. To make reservations, call 781-538-5846 for the Lexington location and 617-209-4942 for Belmont.
This popular Italian restaurant located in the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston along the Charles in Cambridge is co-owned by Chef Dante di Magistri and brothers Damian and Filippo (they also own Il Casale restaurants, see above). And the restaurant will serve the same Festa di Pesce per la Vigilia de Natale (Feast of the Seven Fishes) four-course prix fixe menu on Christmas Eve as at Il Casale (see Il Casale above). The dinner at dante will be served from 5 to 9 p.m. To reserve, call 617-497-4200.
The third annual celebration of the Feast of the Seven Fishes will be served at this contemporary Italian restaurant in Manchester, N.H., on Christmas Eve. The four-course dinner will feature: Seafood Sliders (white Atlantic fish on housemade focaccia, Calabrian Scamorza mozzarella and caper remoulade); Crostini Trinity (salt cod brandade, sardines with Venetian onions, and smoked local mackerel served on housemade sourdough); Tuna Siciliano con polenta, tuna with a fire-roasted tomato sauce (chili, capers and anchovy) served with grilled herb polenta; Hollander Mussels Romano, mussels sautéed in white wine with herb butter and flambeed with Sambuca; and Cod with Clams Risotto (Gulf of Maine cod, dusted with chick pea flour and flash-fried, and served with baby clam risotto). For dessert: a red velvet mascarpone roll. Cost: $55 per person. To reserve, call 603-625-0256.
Lucia Ristorante and Filippo
Lucia and sister restaurant Filippo, both in Boston’s North End, will each host a Feast of the Seven Fishes celebratory meal on Christmas Eve. The feast will be served a la carte and will feature not seven, but 10 seafood-centric dishes, ranging from Seafood Scampi to more traditional Italian dishes like Baccala. The dinner will be served beginning at 5 p.m. For more information visit www.filippori.st and www.luciab.st.
Laurie Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.