I’ve always envied my Italian friends because they enjoy feasts of seafood every Christmas Eve.
Why seafood? Two reasons: Italy is a boot-shaped peninsula kicking deep into the Mediterranean Sea which is loaded with all manner of delectable water-bound wildlife. Secondly, Italy’s a devout Roman Catholic country, and Dec. 24, known as vigilia di magro, is a Catholic day of fasting on which no meat is eaten.
Instead, folks with roots in Southern Italy and Sicily have long celebrated the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and some families even increase that number to nine, 11 or even 13 fish. The seven is believed to represent the seven sacraments. Thirteen is dedicated to the 12 apostles plus Jesus.
Whatever its origins and religious connotations, however, the feast often features fried whitefish, dried cod, fried eel, baccala (baked fish), boiled shrimp, clams, mussels, fried calamari (squid), fried flounder, octopus, scallops and sometimes oysters, lobster and salmon with chick peas. The most creative cooks might make lobster ravioli, mussels marinara or tuna with cannellini beans.
Even if you’re not Italian, you can adopt this delicious tradition with a little help from our Liverpool-area Italian eateries. For instance, Santangelo’s – the award-winning family-owned restaurant at 673 Old Liverpool Road – caters fried calamari and white or red clam sauce over pasta; 315-457-4447.
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, 207 Oswego St., in what used to be Ponderosa Plaza, sells seafood riggies, a dish of imported rigatoni pasta, sautéed bay scallops, shrimp, and hot cherry peppers, tossed with bell peppers and onions, finished in a traditional spicy pink sauce. To make their seafood greens, Francesca’s staff take their Utica Greens and add bay scallops, sautéed shrimp and grated Romano cheese. They also bake a luscious lobster ravioli; 315-451-1200.
Twin Trees at Bayberry Plaza on Route 57 serves jumbo shrimp cocktails, three-cheese clams casino, golden-fried calamari with marinara sauce, beer-battered fish filets, shrimp scampi and a fried seafood sampler; 315-652-2700.
Avicolli’s, out at 7839 Oswego Road, tosses a hot seafood antipasto with fresh clams, scallops and shrimp sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and wine and finished with plum tomatoes and fresh herbs. Their calamari fritti features tender chunks of calamari dredged in seasoned flower, fried to perfection and served with homemade tomato sauce and lemon wedges. The fruti di mare blends clams, scallops, shrimp and calamari, simmered in plum tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs served over pasta. Or gambaretti aspargi showcases extra-large shrimp and asparagus sautéed with olive oil and seasonings tossed with farfalle pasta; 315-622-5100.
Mangia! (Oh, yeah, and buon Natale!)
The Brooklyn Pickle deli broke ground Dec. 3 at what will become its third area location on three acres at the former site of Hafner’s Red Barn, 7191 Buckley Road.
Craig Kowadla, part-owner of the local sandwich franchise, hopes to be open for business there in June.
The Buckley Road Brooklyn Pickle is expected to be about as large as the shop on Burnet Avenue at the corner of Midler Avenue in Syracuse. That restaurant has about 20 tables and booths.
Brooklyn Pickle first opened in 1975 at 2222 Burnet Ave. in Syracuse. A second location was later built at 1600 W. Genesee St. The deli is known for its sandwiches, soups, subs, casserole specials and its signature kosher dill and half-sour pickles.
Believe it or not, ugly Christmas sweater contests are becoming a 21st century holiday tradition across America. The Fireside Inn, 2347 W. Genesee St., in Baldwinsville, hosts its Best Ugly Christmas Sweater contest from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21.
Music will be provided by Dan Elliott & The Monterays; 315-303-0779.
“Being an elected official in the town of Salina for the past 17 years has been the honor of a lifetime.”
–Mark Nicotra, who’s stepping down as Salina town supervisor to take a job in county government.