Italian Americans, especially those from the East Coast, have fond memories of big family gatherings during the holidays — and big meals, including a Christmas Eve tradition known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. If you find yourself far from the cooks in your family who put out a seafood spread for the holidays, a few Front Range restaurants are welcoming guests to the table with a bounty of fresh fish. Here are five great places where you can embrace the Italian tradition — even if you're not Italian.
3601 Arapahoe Avenue
The menu is still under wraps for this year's Feast of the Seven Fishes, but one certainty is that chef/owner Kelly Whitaker's offerings will be kissed by the smoke and heat of his oak-fired oven. Whitaker sources sustainable and wild-caught seafood for the normal daily menu, and the restaurant notes that fish selections will be limited, so call ahead to pre-order your whole wood-fire-roasted fish, get menu details and make reservations for Christmas Eve.
560 South Broadway
You'll find this cozy seafood shop on South Broadway, where owners Matt and Carrie Stein are putting out seven courses on December 24 for $49 (not including tax, tip or beverage) per person, with wine pairings available for an additional charge.
"For us at Chowder Room, it's another opportunity to create a dining experience that takes advantage of the great variety of delicious creatures that come from the sea," Carrie explains. "Many of our guests are every bit as passionate about seafood as we are, so we're looking forward to a really fun night!"
While the menu hasn't been completely nailed down, expect mussels, yellowfin tuna, Mediterranean octopus, scallops and Atlantic cod, all prepared as traditional Italian recipes
A credit-card reservation is required for the dinner, with seatings available from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., so call the restaurant to save your spot.
400 East 20th Avenue
Coperta is blowing out its Feast of the Seven Fishes, extending the holiday meal for nine nights, from Friday, December 16, through Christmas Eve. Chef/owner Paul Reilly says that he's always been fascinated with the meal, which typically includes salt cod, shrimp and eel, and he's considered doing the feast at his other restaurant, Beast + Bottle, for the past several years, but with the new Italian eatery, he couldn't pass up the opportunity. His family-style Feast of the Seven Fishes runs $50 per person during dinner hours (5 p.m. to close), and on Christmas Eve, Coperta will open at 4 p.m. for dinner service.
The menu will include sardine and fennel crostini; calamari and shrimp fritto misto; salt cod ravioli; monkfish arrabiatta; linguini with mussels, garlic and parsley; wood-fired eel with polenta; and squid and chickpea inzimonio (a slow-cooked stew).
Frasca Food & Wine
1738 Pearl Street
On Christmas Eve, the nationally renowned Boulder restaurant will offer a Feast of the Seven Fishes traditionally served to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The five-course menu will be available for $110 per person (with wine pairings for an additional charge), with reservations beginning at 4 p.m. for an early dinner and running through 10:30. Frasca typically presents modern takes on the cuisine of Italy's Friuli region, and this year's feast will honor old Frasca favorites while introducing a few new dishes.
2011 East 17th Avenue
Feast of the Seven Fishes has become an annual tradition at Il Posto, but this will be the last year you'll be able to enjoy the Christmas Eve dinner at chef/owner Andrea Frizzi's snug Updown restaurant. He's moving Il Posto to a bigger space on Larimer Street in the new year, but you'll still be able to enjoy the feast this year, which will offer seven seafood delights packed into five courses for $95 per person, with a $40 wine option, from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and the kitchen will only be serving the special feast that night.
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Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
123 N. College Avenue, Fort Collins
Jax is synonymous with seafood in Colorado, but you'll have to head to the Fort Collins outpost to enjoy a candlelit, family-style dinner since it's the only one in the group (which now numbers five locations in two states) presenting a Feast of the Seven Fishes. The dinner come in at $55 per person., with an additional charge if you opt for a bottomless glass of house red or white wine — and there will also be a kids' version of the feast for smaller tummies.
Seafood will include oysters on the half shell; big eye tuna crudo; sweet potato and crab arancini; an insalata mista with fried anchovy and grilled baby octopus; baked cherry stone clams with speck and Parmesan mornay; pan-roasted swordfish; and mussels with housemade linguica sausage, sea lettuce,
and chestnut cream. Reservations are recommended.