Dec 21, 2022
7 places to partake in the feast of the 7 fishes
Fish, please: Here's where to go in Brooklyn if you want a (mostly) authentic Italian-American Christmas Eve dining experience
Most Italian-Americans who grew up in Brooklyn can regale you with stories from their childhood Christmas Eve dinners where a seemingly endless parade of dishes heaped with fish — grilled, sautéed, stuffed and sauce-smothered — would make their way around a packed table of tipsy relatives. Families and friends would devour course after course of lovingly prepared sea fare before shuffling off to Midnight mass.
This is the time honored tradition of The Feast of the Seven Fishes, and Brooklynites are some of the best to have ever feasted fishily.
The tradition began in the early 20th century, created by home-sick Italian immigrants who wanted a reminder of the old country where most Catholics didn’t eat meat the day before a holiday (because meat either turns to fat or makes you horny and you might sin) and thus a table full of fish in its many forms was born.
For those of us who are not blessed with a loving Nonna slaving over a hot stove for days — or for those of us who can’t be with said Nonna this year — we can still enjoy the delectable tradition. Brooklyn boasts some of the most authentic Italian restaurants in New York City and many of them are offering a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” menu this year.
This Christmas Eve, enjoy the bounty of the sea in several variations at the following seven spots. Fire up the Resy App because you’ll definitely need a reservation and they’re going fast (some other borough favorites we would have included — like Frost Restaurant, La Palina, and Michael’s of Brooklyn — appear to already be booked solid):
32 Withers Street, Williamsburg
Forget. About. It. Established in 1900 (early days for the Feast), this vintage Brooklyn eatery is beloved now more than ever. A true Italian red sauce joint, Bamonte’s standard menu is chock full of fish dishes — think scallops, baccalà, and calamari casserole — served in huge portions making it a perfect spot to belly up on Christmas Eve.
8801 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Cebu’s Christmas Eve menu is, according to their website, “inspired by” the Feast of the Seven Fishes and offers à la carte dishes including lobster bisque, oysters casino and potato crusted wild salmon. The craft cocktails here are a must, and if this tripledemic has you feeling uneasy about indoor dining, Cebu has lovely outdoor seating options complete with heaters and twinkling decorations.
231 Prospect Park West, Windsor Terrace
Not your Nonna’s Feast to be sure, but this eye-popping menu would make her pinch the chef’s cheeks anyway. This prix fixe comprises five courses, including seven fish, and zero red sauce. Dishes include boquerones, tuna Tiradito, Billi Bi Soup and seared salmon with spaghetti squash. For dessert, Christstollen and Eierlikör (German Christmas bread and eggnog) will send you off to bed on a sea of tranquility. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
345 Court Street, Carroll Gardens
One of the crown jewels of Court Street, Marco Polo is an old school Carroll Gardens family-friendly go-to (mere blocks from the church where Al Capone got married). Gather around a large table to enjoy chilled shrimp, clams and oysters, mixed seafood over spaghetti with tomatoes, and linguini with whole lobster in a spicy tomato cream sauce. Marco Polo has an excellent wine list and makes a perfectly dry martini.
1901 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
“Where guests become family” is Patrizia’s motto (Olive Garden could never), and they’re serving up a family style prix fixe this Christmas Eve. For $75 per person you can feast on fried calamari, shrimp oreganata, baked clams, grilled octopus, pastas and steak. That price includes coffee, dessert and sangria, wine or beer.
10018 4th Ave, Bay Ridge
This bright, modern bistro is a Bay Ridge staple known for fresh local ingredients, colorful cocktails in stemmed glasses and clubby atmosphere. They’re offering a four-course prix fixe menu with plenty of fish options like crab cakes, seafood salad, Bronzino, and lobster ravioli.
Randazzo’s Clam Bar
2017 Emmon’s Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
If casual is more your vibe, pop into the “pride of Sheepshead Bay” and enjoy a feast of baked, steamed, raw or zuppa di clams. They also fry a mean calamari, broil juicy filets of fish, and serve up mountains of saucy pasta dishes.
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