Feast of the Seven Fishes
Join us for the Feast of the Seven Fishes!
An Italian Christmas Tradition
Sunday, December 22, 2013
$45 per person, not including tax or gratuity
First Course: Spinach Salad, Seafood Antipasta, Fresh Anchovies, and Smoked Fish
Second Course: Pasta with Calamari in a Red Sauce, Seafood Manicotti, Linguine Aglioe Olio
Entrée: Smelts, Baccalà, Eel, St. Peter’s Fish Giacomo, and Eggplant Parmesan
Dessert: Cookies, Cannoli, Candy, and Coffee
Make your reservations now!
Old world tradition meets new world flavor once again at Ristorante Toscano when owner/chef John Bruno will feature the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” on Sunday, December 22 at 4pm. The four-course family style meal will highlight such authentic fare as baccala, smelts, calamari, eel, and anchovies.
An Italian holiday tradition, there are varying explanations as to the legend of the seven fishes. Most believe each fish stands for one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church; however, others say they stand for the seven utterances Jesus Christ made from the cross, the seven deadly sins of the world, the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem, the seven hills of Rome, the seven winds of Italy, or the Seven Wonders of the World.
Other “schools” of thought say the number of fishes varies, but all are based on a religious meaning. Three fishes would symbolize the Trinity, four the four gospels, five would signify the number of wounds Christ received on the cross; nine, the months of Mary’s pregnancy; or 12 for the number of Christ’s followers.
Most experts agree that the custom of eating the fish on La Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve) stems from the religious belief of vigilia di magro or the abstention from meat. It is thought that the particular fishes used vary by region depending on what is indigenous.
Subscribe to the legend of your choice, but be sure to take part in this festive tradition with the Ristorante Toscano family.
As always, you are welcome to bring your own wine or spirits.
$45 per person plus tax and gratuity.
Reservations are required for this event.
For more information or to make reservations, call 215-362-8002.
Unfamiliar with this event? Check out the article below!
From the Intelligencer Record, Wednesday, December 20, 2000
Article by Melissa Milewski
John Bruno, owner and chef at Ristorante Toscano in Montgomery Township, says his oldest nephew calls the Italian holiday tradition known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” the worst meal of the year.
“My nephew is not a big fish eater,” Bruno said. “There’s no meat in any of the dishes when we have them on Christmas Eve, so he doesn’t like it. “But it’s not just about that. It’s about the family – all 60 or 70 of us fitting in one house.”
Bruno has prepared and participated in the feast for many years and decided to bring it to the community this season. The restaurant offered a four-course family-style dinner for $45 per person Sunday to open the tradition to the public.
This Catholic church-based tradition combines feasting on seven different types of fish while celebrating with family on Christmas Eve. Feast Foods include baccala, smelts, shell-fish and anchovies. Traditionally, some Catholics did not eat meat on Christmas Eve, so the dinner became a feast of fishes, according to Bruno.
But ask families to explain the tradition, and they will offer nearly a half dozen interpretations.
James Petro, a Harleysville resident who has celebrated the event since he was a young boy, said the tradition is based on the Bible and the Catholic church’s seven sacraments, which are baptism, penance, Holy Eucharist, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and anointing of the sick.
“My grandmother and mother always said it was related to the Bible,” Petro said. “We would have seven different kinds of fish because you had to abstain from meat on Christmas Eve.
“We slowed down from doing it about four or five years ago because of my mother’s age. None of the children has picked up on this tradition, but we didn’t want to lose our traditions.”
However, some families say the seven fishes stand for the seven deadly sins of the world, which are pride, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust and greed.
Others say each fish represents the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem or the Seven Wonders of the World.
Explanations are not the only things that can vary among families. Most families feast on traditional dishes, but some also include other specialties.
Bruno said his family would always have “crispel,” fried potato bread with raisins, at the Seven Fishes celebration. But, he said he has heard of other families who add anchovies or other ingredients to the bread.
“People may not know them by that name because households make up different names for some of the dishes,” Bruno said.
“But, the crispels, or we also call them crispies, are addictive,” Bruno said. “We used to say you can only have as many crispels as you eat smelts because no one ever wanted to eat them.”
Denise Brunt, a Lansdale resident who has prepared the fear for the last 20 years, said her family participates in a modified version of the Seven Fishes. She prepares only four fishes – typically tuna, shrimp, sardines and anchovies. Brunt said the family’s best dish is her anchovy fondue know as bauncalda, which means hot bath in Italian. She said they dip fresh vegetables and anchovies in a fondue or garlic and oil.“That’s the most unique thing we do every year,” Brunt said.
It is also traditional at the Brunt house to eat dinner from about 7 to 9 pm on Christmas Eve and then open presents. After all the gifts are open, Brunt said, the damily has desserts such as cannoli and cookies. She said the celebration usually ends close to midnight, but some leave a little early to attend midnight Mass.
Richard DeMaria of Gwynedd Valley remembers 30 to 40 of his family members gathering at his grandmother’s for the Seven Fishes. He said the family would feast from 5 pm until almost midnight on a variety of fishes and his grandmother’s pasta with breadcrumbs. DeMaria also said many years the family would ask each person at the table to tell them why each was thankful that year. “It was a celebration that made the family very warm,” DeMaria said. “It created a closeness among the generations.”
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