It’s more American than Italian, but in parts of the country Italian-Americans will eagerly gather to participate in the Seven Fish Festival on Christmas Eve, and at least five restaurants in Las Vegas are carrying on the tradition.
The celebration apparently started with new immigrants to America at the turn of the 20th century, particularly in the greater New York City area, remembering the Christmas Eve fasts in their homeland. Although the symbolism of the “seven” is uncertain, conventional wisdom holds that it is related to the heavy use of the number in Christianity and particularly in Catholicism – such as the days of creation, the sacraments and the deadly sins. .
But the explanation for the emphasis on seafood in the feast is much clearer.
âI didn’t know what it was like when I was young,â said Mark LoRusso, executive chef for Costa di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas, who grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. âBut I knew that every Christmas Eve we didn’t eat just any meat, we ate pasta and fish – white fish like sole and scallops. And you are waiting for the Virgin and the birth of Jesus.
LoRusso launched a Feast of the Seven Fishes menu last year, believing it to fit perfectly into their family-style tasting menu. It was such a success that he decided to repeat it, both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
âI was getting phone calls and (messages) on social media, ‘Hey, are you doing that? “” Said LoRusso.
He takes back some of the dishes he served last year and in exchange for others. With anchovies being a traditional part of the feast, he will use them, along with mozzarella cheese, to stuff the zucchini flowers. Salt cod, also known as baccala, is another standard, and he uses it in donuts.
âThe octopus, which is very traditional,â LoRusso said. âAnd then we make our stuffed langoustines; there is usually some kind of baked shrimp or baked clam. We have increased it a bit.
Plus three types of pasta, including garganelli with two types of crab, two types of fish, lobster and lobster sauce. Spaghetti with anchovy sauce. Crab risotto.
âAnd then you get a whole fish,â he said. For dessert, three types of cannoli, evoking another tradition. It’s $ 150. wynnlasvegas.com
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At the Siena Italian Deli & Trattoria at 9500 W. Sahara Ave., owner and executive chef Giancarlo Bomparola says the party brings back fond memories of his childhood Christmas Eve parties in Milan, Italy. It provides for a modern version of the celebration, to be served only on Christmas Eve.
Siena will serve seven seafood specialties: lobster ravioli, $ 27.75; Linguine Sciue ‘Sciue’ with clams, scallops and lobster, $ 29.75; Chilean sea bass with lemon-caper sauce, $ 38.75; Tagliolini Al Fruitti Di Mare, $ 26.75; sautÃ©ed baccala with onions, olives and potatoes, $ 24.75; branzino with lemon-caper sauce, $ 34.75; and salmon with sautÃ©ed spinach. $ 27.75.
Traditional dishes such as fried baccala, $ 17.75; Frito Misto, $ 22.75; and scungili salad, $ 18.75, will also be available. sienaitalian.com
At La Strega at 3555 S. Town Center Drive, Christmas Eve guests will be able to choose seven seafood dishes from this list: Bay Scallops, PEI Mussels, Nova Scotia Cockles. Zealand, swordfish, Rhode Island squid, Mexican whitefish, monkfish, crab and Big Glory Bay salmon, $ 77. 702-722-2099
Rao’s at Caesars Palace provides seafood specialties on Christmas Eve, such as ahi crudo, Mediterranean mussels, seafood salad, linguine and clams, lobster fra diavolo, pesce embroidery and la cod, priced at $ 24.99 to $ 42.99. raosrestaurants.com
And Carbone at Aria will be offering a special menu of prix fixe dishes including a whole grilled lobster, king crab legs, oysters and seafood sausages from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Xmas. It’s $ 450. aria.mgmresorts.com or 877-230-2742