Feast to your heart's content at this traditional Italian dinner available at many of Philadelphia's best Italian restaurants, such as Marc Vetri's Amis. (Photo courtesy Amis)
Celebrate Christmas Eve with the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner, known as Festa dei Sette Pesci, or Feast of the Seven Fishes.
A custom that originated in Sicily, the dinner tradition has since spread throughout the rest of Italy as well as around the world.
While the menu varies by region, family and restaurant, it’s traditionally a meal that starts with antipasti and bread, then a huge feast of seven types of fish, along with an assortment of pastas and vegetables, eventually ending with a variety of desserts.
Check out our top picks for locations to enjoy this celebratory meal, sorted by neighborhood for your convenience:
• Route 6: 600 N. Broad Street. On Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, $50 will get you a delicious meal from Chef Anthony DiRienzo, including Cape Codder Oyster with cranberry granite, Smoked Bluefish Dip with horseradish crème fraiche and bagel chips, Lobster Boudain with watercress salad and spicy chili aioli, Wood Oven Roasted Atlantic Salmon with honey crisp apple relish and more. Call (215)391-4600 to reserve your spot.
• Amis: 412 S. 13th Street. The Vetri Family welcomes you to share in this festive Italian-American celebration on December 23 from 5-11 p.m. On this evening a four-course meal featuring the seven fishes will be served family style. It is $65 per person and does not include tax, gratuity, or alcohol. For reservations call (215) 732-2647.
• Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse: 111 S. 17th Street. Davio’s will offer the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner as a prix-fixe menu of uniquely selected seafood by Executive Chef David Boyle. The menu is $75 per person and features items such as grilled branzino with crab risotto and spinach and citrus nage. It will be available on Saturday, December 24 from 5-11 p.m. Reservations are recommended; call (215) 563-4810.
• Ristorante Panorama: 14 N. Front Street. Ristorante Panorama will be serving the Festa dei Sette Pesci now through Thursday, December 30th. For $45 enjoy a four-course menu featuring sea scallops, smelts, calamari, lobster ravioli, branzino and more. A 3-oz. taste of the Sommelier’s Mediterranean wine pairings will be available with each course for an additional $25. For more information call (215) 922-7800.
• Chiarella’s: 11th & Tasker Streets. Hard to believe, but this is the first time Chiarella’s is hosting a seven fishes dinner. It takes place on December 24. The four courses will include New England clam chowder, clams casino, mussels, pasta and sauteed Branzino and creamy polenta. It is $50 per person and BYOB; call (215) 334-6404 for reservations.
• Da Vinci Ristorante: 1533 S. 11th Street. On December 24, Da Vinci’s will serve a set menu in three course. There will be seven traditional items like fried smelts, stuffed calamari, linguine with mussels, cod with olives, capers and tomatoes and rock fish with mushrooms in a lemon white wine sauce. It’s $50 per person and BYOB; call (215) 336-3636 for reservations.
• Le Virtu: 1927 E. Passyunk Avenue. Le Virtù will offer a four-course pre-fixe menu for $65 per person.Items include: Fritto Misto di Pesce, assorted fried calamari, fish and shrimp; Timballo, layered crepes with pork sausage ragu; Agnello al Forno, roasted leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes; and Torcinelli, fried anise-and-raisin dough tossed in sugar with eggnog sauce. Call (215) 271-5626 for reservations.
• Mamma Maria Ristorante: 1637 E. Passyunk Avenue. Various seatings at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on December 24 will include antipasto of fish and seafood, chestnut soup, seven fishes (including baccala, shrimp, stuffed squid and smelts), dessert, espresso or cappuccino, and complimentary wine and after-dinner cordials. This meal is $70 per person. Call (215) 463-6884 for reservations.
Many more, below.
• Paradiso: 1627 E. Passyunk Avenue. This four-course dinner served December 24 will include fritto misto with smelts, calamari, cod cakes and oysters, seafood risotto, spaghetti with white anchovies, golden raisins, garlic and tomatoes, baccala with onions, olives and fresh tomato, tilapia with jumbo lump crab meat and lobster cream, broccoli rabe, and a variety of Italian cookies for dessert. It’s $65 per person with a full bar. Call (215) 271-2066 for reservations.
• Monsu: 901 Christian Street. Executive Chef and Owner Peter McAndrews will be hosting the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner on Saturday, December 24. Expect a special five course dinner from 4-8 p.m., $50 per person. Diners will have the first course served for the entire table and then will choose from a selection of Antipasti, Pasta, Secondi and Dolci. And don’t forget a couple bottles of your favorite vino; the restaurant is BYOB. Make your reservations today by calling (215) 440-0495.
• Gemelli: 4161 Main Street: Celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes every night from Thursday, December 20 through Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24. Items include arancini, smoked salmon, fried calamari, linguini and clams, scallops, shrimp and lobster cannelloni and more. This meal is $45 per person. An a la carte menu will also be available. Call (215) 487-1230 for more info.
• Trax Restaurant & Café: 27 West Butler Pike, Ambler. This cozy BYOB in an old train station will host seven fishes dinners throughout the week leading up to Christmas, from Tuesday, December 20 through Saturday, December 24. The four-course dinner includes smoked salmon with caviar, Caesar salad, bouillabaisse and chocolate mousse. It is $45 per person. The restaurant will also serve its regular a la carte menu from December 20-24. The menu may change slightly due to availability of fresh seafood. Reservations are necessary at (215) 591-9777.
• Pepperoncini: Conshohocken (72 Poplar Street) and Phoenixville (184 Bridge Street). This feast will be offered as take-out only on Christmas Eve. Pick up items like baccala, fried smelts, lobster ravioli or crab cakes starting at 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Call ahead to place your order in Phoenixville at (484) 924-8429 or Conshohocken at (610) 941-7783.
• Avalon Restaurant: 312 South High Street, West Chester. This BYOB will create a traditional five-course seven fishes menu including antipasti, pasta, secondi, insalata digestivo and dolci in the days leading up to Christmas. The holiday meal will be available in the restaurant on Thursday, December 22 through Saturday, December 24. This meal, designed to be ordered by the entire party, is $45 per adult; $15 for children under 12. Child-friendly options will be available. Reservations are necessary at (610) 436-4100. An a la carte menu will be available on Thursday and Friday, but it is an exclusive seven fishes only menu on Saturday.