La Vigilia (literally, “the eve”) typically refers to Christmas Eve, the most important eve of the year. Traditionally, la vigilia was a day of fast; after hours of fasting, Southern Italian Catholics would then break fast with a light meal of fish. Over decades and centuries, the tradition has transformed into a night-long multi-course ode to the creatures of the sea.
Italian-Americans know this tradition as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the number seven said to represent the seven sacraments. (In some Italian households, thirteen fish are prepared to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples.)
I’ve had the feast of the seven fishes, the feast of the nine fishes, and the feast of the eleven fishes. I’ve observed it in Naples, Liguria, Bologna, and Rome. The execution of la vigilia is radically different in each region and each household. The dishes are all geospecific, but they have been delicious on every single occasion. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year.
So why not prolong the deliciousness and start the celebration a couple weeks early? At OTTO, we’re celebrating throughout the month of December. Follow @ottopizzeria on Twitter and Instagram for photos of the dishes. Better yet, come in and taste them.
Baccala alla Pizzaiola
steamed salt cod with tomato water, roasted peppers, capers, toasted breadcrumbs, and chiles
Scungilli “alla Napolatana”
thinly sliced scungilli with celery, chile flakes, red wine vinegar and lemon juice
Octopus with Fennel and Tangerine
confit of octopus with shaved fennel, tangerine, crushed pistachio and tangerine agrumato
Seppia con Acetini
charred cuttlefish with pickled ramps, jingle bell peppers and fennel
Ceci and Bottarga
toasted chickpeas with Bemis and James Bottarga, lemon and chiles
Fennel cured Salmon
with cucumber, red onion and capers
Marinated anchovies and potato
with diced Yukon gold potatos, marjoram, poached garlic, lemon olive oil and chile flakes