Seattle restaurateurs are embracing the southern Italian Christmas Eve custom of la vigilia, better known in Italian-American households as "the feast of the seven fishes." In true Italian spirit, the meal transforms an act of abstinence (from meat) into an indulgence. Here, four places to try it out around Seattle this month:
1) Bar Sajor hews close to tradition, serving the meal on Christmas Eve. It plans to feature raw oysters, pickled mussels and smelt, grilled squid and scallop salad, stewed salt cod (aka baccalà, an Italian staple), and grilled octopus with smoked pumpkin. Price: $45
2) Anchovies & Olives has scheduled its feast a day early, on the 23rd. The set menu, served family style, consists of raw oysters, ahi crudo, fried squid, steamed Manila clams, grilled branzino, and two pastas: bigoli with anchovies and tonnarelli with king crab. Price: $80
3) Downtown Italian hotel restaurant Tulio Ristorante does a tempered take on the meal, offering seven a la carte fish specials on its Christmas Eve menu: starters of tuna, mussels, baccalà, and raw oysters, and main courses of sautéed branzino, crab spaghetti, and scallop risotto. Price: Dishes from $8-$38
4) The pizzaioli at Greenwood’s Delancey will use their wood-fired oven to produce fish feasts on December 14 and 21. (December 21 is already sold out.) The menu consists of roasted oysters, whole roasted radishes with anchovies and caramelized leeks, wild shrimp with carsos pasta, Dungeness crab with shaved fennel, marinated mussels with chorizo, and butter-poached lobster. Along with seven fishes you get eight wine pairings (the eighth one goes with dessert). Price: $125.
5) Agrodolce's version offers three options of the traditional feast: a Feast of Three Fishes for $35, a Feast of Five fishes for $55 and a Feast of Seven Fishes for $75. Each feast has its own optional wine pairing and offers a variety of fresh seafood with an Italian twist. Notable seafood dishes include Grilled Octopus with sultana and caper salsa verde; Black Cod and Tomato Stew with fried couscous, fennel and wild mushroom; Black Nile Barley Spaghetti and Clams with pickled chili, castelvetrano olive and fresh mint; and Sylver Fishing Spot Prawns with vanilla squash puree, persimmon and pomegranate. View the full menu online.