The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or La Vigilia (The Vigil) as it’s known in Italy, is a traditional Christmas Eve seafood dinner, often served before or after Midnight Mass. The seven seafood dishes represent the seven sacraments, or the seven days of creation, or something, but in Italian-American households the number often varies, and can even go to 13 or higher. Basically, it's an opportunity to gather around the table with friends and family and stuff your face. Of course, if you don't have a tough-talking Italian grandmother to cook all these courses, you can still experience the Vigilia at a few Italian joints around town. Here are some options, and you don't need to wait until Christmas Eve for all of them:

  • La Bottega is going whole hog whale with an eight course extravaganza offered all month. We gave it a spin at a press preview last week and highly recommend it. Their feast costs $75, but you get a ton of superb food, starting with ravioli stuffed with crab meat; continuing on to a dish of pan seared scallops with carmelized brussels sprouts, pancetta & watercress in a warm pomegranate vinaigrette; and further to a classic Adriatic seafood stew of cod, jumbo prawns, sea scallops, mussels & cockles served in tomato seafood broth. Chef Bart Retolatto is really in his element here, and we've been longtime fans of La Bottega as a reasonably priced Meatpacking District alternative. This one doesn't disappoint. 88 9th Avenue; (212) 243-8400
  • Hearth is doing a one-off La Vigilia on Christmas Eve, with three courses for $65. That gets you three courses plus dessert, and includes options like Clams Oreganata with Roasted Red Pepper, Lemon Zest, Parsley; Salted Cod Crostini; White Anchovies with Arugula, Shaved Fennel, Pickled Onion, Breadcrumbs; and a classic fish stew from Viareggio in Tuscany. Check out the whole menu here. Reservations are recommended. 403 East 12th Street, (646) 602-1300
  • If you're headed out of town via Grand Central Terminal, you can conveniently feast on fishes at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on Saturday, December 24th. Executive Chef Sandy Ingber will reprise his special a la carte Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. It will be served all day during lunch and dinner on Christmas Eve, and features seven menu specials throughout the day. Obviously, you're probably not going to order more than one of these; our pick would be the Linguini with Florida Rock Shrimp, Hazelnuts, Anchovy and Agilio e Olio; $25.95. Grand Central, (212) 490-6650
  • Cobble Hill restaurant Lunetta is serving a Christmas Eve feast, with seven fishes served over seven courses, for $62 per person. Highlights from the menu, to our enormous eyes, include New York stone ground polenta with seared carolina shrimp, a Sea Bass con Brodo with swiss chard & cockles in broth; and a Panettone bread pudding. The rustic Italian restaurant is also offering optional wine pairings with each course. 116 Smith Street, (718) 488-6269
  • Patsy’s Italian Restaurant on West 56th Street (not to be confused with the pizzeria chainlet) is carrying on their Feast of the Seven Fishes from December 16th until Christmas Eve, December 24th. It costs $59.95 per person and includes a choice of Calamari Salad or Baccala Salad; a half-order of Linguini with Frutti Di Mare Sauce; and a choice of Shrimp Scampi. Also: Stuffed Calamari, Shrimp Fra Diavolo, or Tilapia Livornese. And for dessert, an agonizing choice between Patsy’s homemade Strufoli (honey balls) or homemade Biscotti. 236 West 56th Street, (212) 247-3491