Feast of the Seven Fishes has been an Italian ritual on or around Christmas Eve for as long as Long Island has been home to Southern Italian immigrants (Eastern Europeans have their own variations). While it’s more often a celebration at home, some Long Island restaurants are getting into the festivities.
Also known as La Vigilia, the meal honors the practice of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve. It’s also a holdover from when meat was more of a luxury than fish. The number seven references the sacraments — although some Italian Catholic families serve 11 dishes or 13 dishes in reference to the Apostles.
Luigi Novello, owner of Jewel of the Sea in Woodbury, points to a tradition that’s changing. “It’s not like it used to be,” he said. Old-school dishes such as bacalao, octopus and eel have been replaced by shrimp, clams and calamari, as well as flounder, salmon and branzino, “to suit more modern tastes,” he said.
For those who don’t intend to cook seven fishes at home, the following are among a handful of restaurants that will host the feast on or near Christmas Eve.
Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Garden City offers the Feast of the Seven Fishes now through Christmas Eve with a tapas-style seven-course menu with optional wine pairings. The full menu includes grappa-cured salmon, salt cod fritter, octopus salad, warm Caesar salad, squid ink campanelle with a seafood ragu, branzino and monkfish. It’s $55 a person, $75 including wine pairings. Dishes are also available a la carte.
In The Gallery at Westbury Plaza, 1002 Old Country Rd., Garden City; 516-228-5400, spuntinowinebar.com
Arturo’s Ristorante Italiano will be serving zuppa di pesce with more than seven fishes, including clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster tail and calamari, for $54.95 a person; available now throughout the holidays.
246-04 Jericho Tpke., Floral Park; 516-352-7418, arturorestaurant.com
Lombardi’s on the Bay and Lombardi’s on the Sound offer a Christmas Eve buffet that includes more than seven fishes, as well as meats. Steer toward the holiday seafood salad with shrimp, calamari, scungilli, octopus and mussels, as well as fried calamari, tilapia, salmon and mussels on the hot buffet. Seatings are at 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6, 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. Adults cost $59 a person while kids eat for $25. Cash bar is also available.
The week before Christmas at Vincent’s Clam Bar, customers can order platters of clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, octopus, scallops and snapper for $26.95 a person. Family-size takeout platters are also available for $150.
179 Old Country Rd., Carle Place; 516-742-4577, vincentsclambar.com