italy for the holidays: feast of the seven fishes

during the holidays, dinners with coworkers, family and friends abound. everyday meals are elevated to opportunities to slow down for an hour or two and give thanks for special people in our lives.

many of the holiday meals we share today can be traced back decades and centuries to cultural and religious observances. for italian-americans, one such meal is the feast of the seven fishes. this celebration traces its roots to the vigil or la vigilia, an italian christmas eve feast of seafood and fish. on this night, italians gather with family and friends to eat, play games, attend mass, and observe the birth of baby jesus at midnight, followed by the exchange of gifts. many consider this “the” party to attend.

the feast of the seven fishes also incorporates the roman catholic practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat on fridays during lent. while italians and italian-americans alike can agree that fish is the highlight of christmas eve dinner, the number (7, 9, 12 …) and type of fish and seafood varies widely from family to family. for some, salted cod fish or baccalá is a mainstay. for others, calamari, salmon, shrimp, and clams are part of their family recipes and annual traditions. some families strictly uphold a no-fish rule, while others do a more modern take on the feast and offer bacon-wrapped scallops, prosciutto with halibut, or antipasto platters that include cured meats. dishes might be laid out buffet-style or as a seated dinner with courses.

in chicago, isaacson & stein fish company in the fulton market district is a favorite spot for families to either place large pre-orders for fish and seafood or stand in long lines in the cold weather to ensure they bring home just the right ingredients for their dishes. fishmongers are familiar with the traditional feast and anticipate the higher volumes and special requests.

for many italian-americans, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without the feast of the seven fishes. it’s a way to honor the roots of their italian heritage during the christmas season and pass down the tradition from generation to generation.

at tesori, we welcome you to celebrate the holidays italian-style with our 7-course tasting menu, honoring the feast of the seven fishes. available december 19-23. tickets are limited.

tesori trattoria & bar
feast of the seven fishes

scallop crudo
orange, fennel pollen, fresno chili, chive oil

insalate di polipo
octopus, celery, radish, olive, lemon

tuna conserva
warm tuna, cannellini beans, arugula, pickled shallots

baccala mantecato fritto
crispy salt cod, lemon aioli, parsley

spaghetti & anchovy
anchovy, garlic, chili flakes, herbs

prosciutto wrapped ahi tuna
sundried tomato pesto, olives, arugula

apple & fennel crostata
mascarpone whipped cream, cinnamon caramel

stop by our chicago italian restaurant

with the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to spend quality time with your friends and family. whether you’re a longtime chicago native or need a place to wind down after a day of sightseeing, come enjoy italian cuisine at tesori, located near the millennium park and the art institute. browse our feast of the seven fishes dishes above, or the rest of our menu online. we look forward to serving you soon, and wish you the happiest of holidays!

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