Here is a shortlist of restaurants that are offering their traditional and not so traditional versions of the Feast of the Seven Fishes in Philly.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the 21st Century’s culinary renaissance is how specific elements of ethnic culturalism have become the now usual suspects of every day (or every holiday) dining. And though every commercial chef and home cook borrows and steals from every other nationality’s legacy menu, for anyone who is Italian or Italian American, like me, the Feast of the Seven Fishes held around the Christmas holiday is always one that I found fascinating to find usurped by the rest of you. I mean, are you absolutely certain that you want to try smeltz or scungilli?
That said, this city’s restaurants beyond South Philly have exploded with menu and dining options for what is usually just a Christmas Eve home banquet. That means lining a table with anchovies, salt cod, clams, shrimp, octopus, sardines, mussels, baccalah and smeltz. Some cooks get fancy and throw in lobster and ceviche which would have made my mom laugh. That too is the point: what is it that your family will and won’t cook for the Feast of the Seven Fishes? My mom wasn’t big on shrimp but was cool with everything else. You feast to taste.
For instance, Izakaya by Yanaga in No Libs is holding a Feast of Seven Fishes Sushi Dinner which I know holds Hamachi sashimi, spicy salmon tartare and octopus robata.
SliCE in South Philly is baking its Pizza of the 7 Fishes with mussels, shrimp, tuna, crab meat, clams and sardines topped with anchovies, fresh lemon and basil.
Fishtown’s newly opened The Fin will do a Feast of Seven Fishes Dinner and a Feast of Seven Fishes Seafood Boil with Dungeness crab, crawfish and more.
While Old City’s Positano Coast hosts a traditional Italian fish feast, it also throws in Italian rice balls with lobster, branzino filets, squid ink spaghettini and a basked of mixed nuts and Clementines. Seriously, the nuts and citrus are VERY Italian. Yay, that! Positano Coast’s neighbor, Jose Garces’ Olde Bar, throws in Clams in White Wine Grilled Baguette, Oysters Rockefeller Parmesan with Spinach Cream and Crispy Bacon, and Curried Mussels with Chinese Sausage. Dag.
Kay Kay’s is casual and going for crab cakes and bacon-wrapped scallops among its magnificent seven. In keeping with musical names, Bomb Bomb has fried shrimp and stuffed calamari. Center City’s busy Oyster House goes for a smoked fish dip and clams casino. North Broad’s Osteria wow with baked clams amatriciana, baccala lasagna, and stuffed conchiglie.
Off-South Street’s Cry Baby Pasta. The wine-heavy La Famiglia. Downtown’s opulent Gran Caffe L’Aquila.
While not complete, this brief list of restaurants doing and hosting their own Feast of the Seven Fishes would keep you stuffed for the next week. But hurry. Some hot spots book early and sell out quick. You’ll thank me.