The feast of the seven fishes is an Catholic Italian-American tradition that goes back generations. Although as a Catholic Italian-American growing up my family never partook in this tradition, but I knew of many families that did. This may have been because growing up we spent Christmas Eve on my Dad’s side of the family and celebrated Wigilia (I will have to do a Wigilia post in the future), which let me tell you fitting 60 polish people in a row house in Chester is a hell of loud and crazy time and Christmas Day with my Mom’s side, the Italian side. For a deep dive into the seven fishes celebration in Philly you will find a great piece by Danya Henninger of Billy Penn here.
This year I decided to check out the feast of seven fishes for the first time, I could only go on the 23rd though since I had family parties on Christmas Eve, so I headed down to my favorite Roman style restaurant Amis. I ended up getting a seat at the Chef’s table which is always my favorite spot in the restaurant, you get to witness how much it actually takes to pull off an event like this, it reminds me of a better Chip Kelly offense when it worked as controlled chaos or of my Polish Christmas Eve’s were my Grandmom and all of her sisters would be yelling at each other in the kitchen.
I ordered the seven fishes meal with the wine pairing. By the way, this meal is best attended with family and friends, it was a fun time for me by myself chatting with the staff but I’m weird so if you want to do it right make sure your bring company.
Then out came the first course starting with the baked baccala bruschetta, the baccala’s texture was spot on, firm but flaky and to my surprise it was a savory dish, so salty, juicy, heartwarming it reminded me of a lighter version of a mash pie.
Up next came the stuffed clams with lemon or what I called them the classy clams casino. This dish worked together perfectly as you got hit with smoky flavor off the bat then salty and finally a nice spritz of lemon to finish each clam. It was definitely the best clams casino I ever had.
At this point I realized I would need two glasses of wine for each of the three courses so I informed my waiter of my wish and he was great about it. After getting another glass, I started to eat the smoked eel salad with pomelo and buffalo mozzarella. This was a terrific salad, the grapefruit like taste of the pomelo matched exquisitely with the fresh juicy mozzarella, my only wish was that more of the smoked eel was on the plate to compliment the flavors even more.
It was time for the second courses, as the chef put the spaghetti and mussels in front of me he said “I’ll be impressed if you finish that” to that I chuckled and said don’t worry I ate 40 courses a couple weeks ago and to that he was just flabbergasted. This was a fabulous dish, it reminded me of my childhood except much better pasta and fresher mussels. The meaty mussels tasted like they were right from the sea and brought great flavor to the sauce that gave my tastebuds a very enjoyable experience.
The third course consisted of a monkfish Marsala with escarole, beans and polenta. The monkfish which tastes almost exactly like lobster was cooked flawlessly and the rich, earthy taste of the Marsala sauce gave the dish tremendous flavor.
I wanted to save room for dessert so I only had a few bites of the spicy, garlicky escarole and beans and the polenta that tasted exactly like grits flavored with corn bread but they were both delicious.
I ordered an espresso to go with the desserts. Out they came and of course there was one more than expected. I decided to take the cookies home with me and started with Amaretto semifreddo with hot chocolate, this godsend in a small glass was out of my mind good. The sweet almond flavor of the amaretto semifreddo went together like a horse and carriage with the hot chocolate, with out a doubt one of my favorite desserts of 2015. The other dessert was not far behind, it consisted of a rice pudding, Italian style maraschino cherries, no not the candied ones you get at DQ and pistachios. By this point I was so full. I decided I had to finish the night. I picked up the glass of pear infused brandy that sat in front of me and took a few nips that were perfect for settling my stomach.
This was a great time, if you are looking for a Catholic Italian-American experience with great food before Christmas next year I would absolutely suggest you hit this up. This was a 4 Tizzle experience.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!!
Happy New Year!