The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

An Italian- American tradition, “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” is a Christmas Eve event that celebrates both biblical tradition and the use of seafood in the family meal as a way of abstinence from meat, a long Roman Catholic tradition during the various days of the week as well as during Lent. The meal, or “The Feast” typically consists of seven different seafood dishes, among those various meal components may include some combination of anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels and clams. Various pastas, vegetable dishes, homemade breads and of course, wine are often the requisite accompaniments.

The meal commemorates the wait or the “Vigilia di Natalie”- of the birth of the baby Jesus. There are several biblical references to the number “7” being of significance in Roman Catholics tradition, ranging from the use of the word being repeated in the bible over 700 times, or the theory of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church- to the Seven hills of Rome that surround the city. Whatever the true affiliation, it is a tradition that remains special in an Italian-American family, as told by Anthony Cerrato, owner and chef of Strada Italiano Restaurant.

CLS: Anthony, I attended a Christmas Eve dinner of yours in the past and it was quite the experience. Tell me what this tradition means to you?

AC: Personally, it represents a tradition that I grew up with in New Jersey. Traditions of the Italian family, everyone gathering around a table, many generations spending time together. Holding onto traditions, which is very important.

CSL: And you have been doing this for several years, anything different this year.

AC: I have been doing this for the past 6 years, very well attended in the past and this year it will be on Monday the 23rd. I saw a shift in what was important to me and it’s about being with family, and letting my staff have that experience as well.

CSL: It is great you recognize that importance. So, if someone were interested in attending, what should they do and what kind of menu should they expect?

AC: Call and make a reservations at Strada Italiano, we also have an online reservations form at
As far as the menu, people can expect similar options as in years past. For the First Course you will see Baccala (Salted Cod), Scungili and Seafood Insalata as well as Oysters Florentine. Second Course we may offer Shrimp Orenganata, Grouper Piccata, Mussels Marinara as well as Fried Calamari. Of course, if you are not a seafood fan we also have the regular menu available. Either way, you leave very satisfied!

CSL: So, what would a first time visitor expect when visiting Strada?

AC: We have an elegant atmosphere with a relaxed/warm setting. There is a mixture of antiques, vintage posters and art. It is Old World with modern touches. We also like to show the Italian heritage of New York/New Jersey (or Italy/Northern US connection), as that is where the roots of my ancestry begin. We are like a big family here, a big Italian- American family in the way you can expect to be fed well and perhaps even receive a few hugs before you leave.

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