Feasts of the Seven Fishes abound in the Pittsburgh area

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American phenomenon unknown in Italy, is traditionally a Christmas Eve meal celebrating the “Vigilia” (“vigil”), the period of waiting for the Christ child’s midnight birth.

But while some restaurants do serve the feast on Christmas Eve, others serve it earlier in December.

Many Pittsburgh-area restaurants are participating in the tradition this year, and one cooking class teaches novices how to make the feast at home. Each restaurant puts its own spin on the feast, serving seafood dishes of the chef’s own choosing, although often you’ll find a pasta dish and a soup among the offerings. Here’s what local restaurants are cooking up, plus an entire festival dedicated to the feast a bit further outside of Pittsburgh.

Arpino Trattoria, 1910 Cochran Road, Mt. Lebanon: The six-course menu features clams casino (clams, pancetta, cherry peppers, garlic, onion, parsley and white wine), fried oysters, Calabrian-style swordfish served with white beans and tomatoes, Giglio pescatore (Giglio pasta with shrimp, bay scallops, capers and lobster tomato sauce), cod and mussels served with asparagus puree, and limoncello flute (lemon gelato swirled with limoncello). 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, $70. Reservations required: 412-207-2765. Information: arpinotrattoria.com.

Giant Eagle Market District, 100 Settlers Ridge Center Drive, Robinson: A cooking class will be divided into groups that will prepare various fish dishes, and then the class will sit down to a family-style meal capped off with limoncello. The class is capped at 12 students and will focus on customary seafood varieties like baccala, anchovies and squid. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Giant Eagle Market District, Robinson. $65. eventbrite.com (search for “Feast of the Seven Fishes”).

La Tavola Italiana, 1 Boggs Ave., Mount Washington: The family-style courses include Sfincione (Sicilian pizza with anchovy, tomato and breadcrumbs), Crudo di Tonno (tuna with white bean puree, capers and pickled red onions), Bastoncini di Pesce (Barramundi fish sticks with lemon garlic aioli), Calamari Ripieni (stuffed calamari simmered in tomato sauce), salmon croquettes, baccala salad and Clams Oreganata. Individually plated courses include fettuccini with lobster, Baccala Puttanesca and gelato with crushed amaretti cookies and blueberry sauce. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. $75; BYOB permitted. Reservations: 412-481-6627. Information: latavolaitalianarestaurant.com/events.

Ladles, 516 Pittsburgh St., Springdale: Menu includes whipped baccala clams oreganato; octopus, potato and green bean salad; stuffed calamari with crab risotto in tomato butter sauce; spaghettini with shaved bottarga, jumbo shrimp and scallops; pistachio-encrusted swordfish and more, with paired wines and live music. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12. $89; $40 deposit required. 724-274-5230. Information: ladleskitchen.com.

Quickhatch Coffee + Food, 372 Butler St., Etna: Chef David Bulman has prepared Feast of the Seven Fishes for his family and for private events, but this is his first time serving it for a restaurant crowd.

“There won’t be a lot of diversion from what would be considered a traditional version” of the feast, he said. This meal is standing in for his usual monthly Sunday suppers at Quickhatch, but it will be a bit different in that he’ll serve the feast for two nights instead of one.

Also, the price will be a bit higher than his usual Sunday suppers, which he tries to keep under $25. This feast costs more “because fish is more expensive, and I need at least seven of them,” he said. In fact, he thinks there will be eight types of fish, although his menu was still in development.

His restaurant capacity is around 40 people at a time, but he’s taking reservations between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. $38. Reservations: 412-252-2682. Information: facebook.com (search for “Quickhatch Coffee + Food”).

Roman Bistro, 2104 Ardmore Blvd., Forest Hills: Buffet with calamari, smelts, smoked salmon, herring, fried clams, baked cod, tilapia, shrimp, lobster mac & cheese, pasta station, Italian sausage, antipasti, Caesar salad with anchovies, bruschetta, Spanish rice, ratatouille, Italian pastries and more, plus a bloody Mary bar. 3 to 8 p.m. Dec. 24. $28. 412-871-3704; romanbistro.com/events.

Senti, 3473 Butler St., Lawrenceville: Senti will have both a Feast of the Seven Fishes menu and, in case you’re not a fish lover, an a la carte menu on Christmas Eve. The fish menu includes Trio de Pesce (octopus salad, seared scallops with porcini mushrooms, and baccala), house-made spaghetti with anchovies and bottarga, creamed saffron potato soup with baccala and squid ink foam, squash ravioli with prawns, branzino filet served in a fish soup, and white chocolate mousse for the dessert course. The restaurant is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays, and reservations are recommended. The Seven Fishes feast is $85 per person; a la carte items are individually priced. 412-586-4347; sentirestaurant.com.

Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Ave., Strip District: Executive Chef Justin Steel plans a four-course menu each year. The first is typically an appetizer course with three separate fish dishes, the second is a seafood pasta, third is the entree fish course and last is dessert. Reservations are being accepted between 5 and 11 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18. $70 (includes tip). 412-471-1900; barmarcopgh.com.

Feast of the Seven Fishes Winter Street Festival, Fairmont, W.Va.: The town about 90 minutes from Pittsburgh holds a street fair with live music, an artisan market, authentic Italian cuisine and a parade. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on Monroe and Adams streets. Information: mainstreetfairmont.org/feast-of-the-seven-fishes-2017.html.

The previous evening, the Festival Cucina Cooking School will feature cooking demos for the seven traditional Italian dishes, and attendees can then enjoy those dishes with wine. 6 p.m. Friday at Fairmont Presbyterian Church, 301 Jackson St., Fairmont, W.Va. $30. eventbrite.com (search for “Festival Cucina Cooking School 2017”).

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com; @pgfoodevents.


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