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The Feast of the Seven Fishes

La Vigilia at Otto, New York

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