November 27, 2023

Taking the Bait—The Feast of the Seven Fishes

We lead such busy lives! Our schedules are jam-packed, and it can all get even more overwhelming during the holidays. That’s why we believe Christmas dinner is so important—it’s a designated time to stop, breathe, recentre, let our hair down and focus on what really matters. This year, we invite you to try something new and immerse yourself in the colourful, lively food traditions of Southern Italy with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It’s the perfect Christmas Eve dinner, a meal both elegant and easy that lets you enjoy real quality time with your loved ones. Throw on your glad rags, grab a glass of something sparkling and join us at the table!

Stefano Faita's Feast of the Seven Fishes.

From Southern Italy to North America

So, what exactly is the famous Feast of the Seven Fishes? It’s basically a festive Christmas Eve dinner, or Vigilia di Natale, composed of a whole host of fish and seafood dishes. We owe it to the southern Italians, who brought a taste of Italy and tradition with them to America when they emigrated in the 1900s. Why fish? Well, Roman Catholic tradition did prohibit people from eating meat on Christmas Eve, which probably influenced the menu to some extent, but the truth is, fish was a readily available resource!

Stefano Faita's Feast of the seven fishes
Stefano Faita's Feast of the seven fishes



As for the number seven, there’s no clear-cut reason. While there’s a lot of cultural and religious symbolism behind that simple number that might play into it (seven deadly sins, seven days of the week, etc.), no one knows for sure, and not everyone serves seven courses. Some families have been known to serve up to 12—just imagine the cleaning up you’d have to do after that feast! As with most traditions, it has evolved over time, and now you don’t even have to serve seven dishes, but the focus on fish remains. A great Feast of the Seven Fishes will showcase a variety of fish, seafood, and cooking methods influenced by local and family preferences. Put simply, it’s a stylish, generous meal that will have you wanting to throw a glitzy party, just like in the good old days!

Stefano Faita's Feast of the seven fishes
Stefano Faita's Feast of the seven fishes



A Feast for You, Created by Us

We’ve developed a modern version of La Vigilia so that you can wow your family and friends without too much effort. Our version is made up of six easy seafood and fish dishes, two decadent yet practical desserts and two cocktails to start off on the right note. And what’s more, by opting for lighter fish and seafood options, you won’t run out of room for dessert … or the rest of the Christmas meals you have scheduled on your calendar! We’ve got chic oysters and mignonette, a baccalà salad that reminds me of the parties my mom used to throw, a tomatoey fish stew called cioppino, an absolutely delicious spaghetti alle vongole, clams Posillipo—Frank Sinatra’s favourite!—, and my uncle Rudy’s famous shrimp scampi, topped off with a torta caprese from the incredible Josée di Stasio and a platter of homemade biscotti. Yes, please!

As you can see, this traditional menu is heavily inspired by our family and friends, but it is also rooted in simplicity. The oysters and cod salad don’t need cooking and can be served cold as appetizers, even standing up by the counter if you prefer. And the desserts can be made ahead of time—you can even make the biscotti now and freeze them until then! Plus, the concept of a seven-course meal gives you plenty of wiggle room for making the night your own. Draw it out with party games in between courses, or serve it all as a buffet. Have a break halfway through to open gifts or go for a walk before dessert. The possibilities really are endless. It’s just the menu to wake up the nonna in you without sweating all night over the stove.

Buon Natale, from my family to yours!

Stefano Faita's oyster mignonette, as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Stefano Faita's insalata di baccalà (salt cod salad), as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Mignonette for oysters

Just arrange a few oysters in their shells on a platter, and your guests will immediately know the party has started! To take your oyster game up a notch, we’ve got a great two-ingredient recipe for a tasty, traditional garnish that will only take you a few minutes (seconds?) to make. Now that’s how to show off!


Insalata di baccalà (Salt cod salad)

This ultra-traditional salad comes straight out of my mom Elena’s Christmas memories. You’ll need to factor in a little bit of time for soaking, but otherwise this fresh and colourful version of the classic will come together in no time. This is one tradition that definitely deserves to be shared and put back under the spotlight.

Stefano Faita's cioppino, a seafood soup, served as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Stefano Faita'a spaghetti alle vongole, a traditional Christmas Eve dish, served as part of the Feast of the Seven fishes.

Cioppino (Seafood soup)

Cioppino is a fish and seafood stew meant to be eaten like a healthy soup a bit like a bouillabaisse. Fresh fish, clams, mussels and shrimp all come together in a tomato base broth. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the ingredients will make their way from your fridge to your table.


Spaghetti alle vongole

There’s something special about spaghetti alle vongole. It’s chic and sophisticated, yet simple — everything that makes Italian cuisine so charming! There’s no fuss, no muss, just delicious simple flavours that let the clams shine. Spaghetti alle vongole is a perfect primo piatto for a seafood holiday feast, but it also deserves a heavy yearly rotation

Ce plat de palourdes tomaté et rehaussé d’une touche de ‘nduja, une sorte de saucisson épicé à tartiner calabrais, se prépare en quelques minutes top chrono. On dépose les coquillages sur une tranche de pain pour absorber toute cette belle sauce-là et on rêvasse aux célèbres restaurants de fruits de mer du quartier Posillipo de Naples.

Un plat aussi sophistiqué que décomplexé — le préféré de Frank Sinatra!

Shrimp scampi

This shrimp scampi is a delicious creation made by my mom’s brother, Uncle Rudy. He would traditionally make this festive meal with real butterflied langoustines cooked standing up in the oven. But because we are always looking for ways to make your life easier, our version uses classic shrimp cooked simply in a skillet. This recipe makes for a beautiful service in the traditional Feast of the seven fishes, but it can also hold its own as a main course when served with a risotto, pasta or polenta.


Clams Posillipo

This shellfish delight featuring tomatoes and ’nduja, a sort of spicy, spreadable salami from Calabria, comes together in just a few quick minutes. Served on grilled bread to soak up all the tasty sauce, this wasn’t Frank Sinatra’s favourite dish for nothing! And if you were wondering, Posillipo is a little residential area in Naples known for its top-quality seafood. Sit down and dig in, la dolce vita awaits.

This torta caprese is proof that a fantastic recipe is adaptable and can stand the test of time. This gluten-free cake (hello, almond flour!) is simply truly very delicious. Luxuriously chocolatey and perfectly moist, the torta caprese is also very elegant.
Stefano Faita's tasty, cunchy chocolate-hazelnut biscotti are perfect for dipping in coffee or tea.

Torta caprese

Over a decade ago, the fabulous Josée di Stasio (a family friend for over 30 years) gave Michele and I this recipe for torta caprese. We loved it so much that we still use it today to make one of our signature desserts at Impasto. This gluten-free cake (hello, almond flour!) is luxuriously chocolatey and perfectly moist. And we’ve added our own personal touch with a dollop of ricotta cream to make every bite even more decadent!


Chocolate-hazelnut biscotti

These tasty, crunchy cookies are perfect for dipping in coffee and tea, and keep well for up to a month on the kitchen counter in an airtight container. OK, I’d be lying if I said they lasted for that long in our house, but it is a good idea to keep some on hand for any surprise visitors or to give as little homemade gifts. And of course, children love to get stuck-in making these!

Stefano Faita's cranberry-Aperol spritz is a festive twist to your favourite Italian aperitivo!
You undoubtedly know the Aperol Spritz, but have you ridden the Bicicletta Spritz? This simple three-part cocktail combines dry white wine, sparkling water, and Campari so you can expect more of a bitter bite.

Cranberry-Aperol Spritz

Spritz up your Aperol with a festive twist! Here, the cranberry juice adds a burst of colour to your favorite Italian aperitivo. It’s still bubbly and refreshing, giving you those Mediterranean winter vibes. Perfect for a fun holiday brunch with friends or to start your family gatherings off in a festive mood.


Bicicletta Spritz

You undoubtedly know the Aperol Spritz, but have you ridden the Bicicletta Spritz? This simple three-part cocktail combines dry white wine, sparkling water, and Campari so you can expect more of a bitter bite. You’ll see, mixing the drink is as easy as riding a bike!