The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve is a staple tradition in many Italian American families like mine, passed down for generations. The number seven can be linked to many things including the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Sacraments, but every Italian American I ask has a different interpretation.
Growing up in an Italian American family, our Seven Fishes dinner was the best part of Christmas and a tradition we have never missed. While many families prepare a couple fishes seven different ways, my grandfather, Alessandro, a chef who emigrated from Italy, prepared seven different fishes every Christmas Eve. Sometimes he’d lose count and just keep making fish until the table was full!
Alessandro, who just turned 98 years old, has passed down the tradition of the Seven Fishes to my mom who’s been knocking it out of the park every Christmas Eve (although we sometimes throw in some Swedish Fish for dessert to get the count to seven these days!).
Over the years we have tried our fair share of fishes (and crustaceans, which we count!). It is one of my favorite family traditions that I look forward to every year. Here are a few staples at our Seven Fishes dinner:
Fresh Oysters served raw
Crab dip served with crackers
Primo (First Course):
Spaghetti served with Anchovies and Clam sauce, topped with fresh parsley and bread crumbs
Secondo (Second Course):
Baccalà (one of the most traditional fishes of the meal) served in tomato sauce
Calamari (either fried or boiled and topped with marinara sauce)
Broiled breaded Sea Scallops
Smelts served fried
Baked Salmon served with lemon and rosemary