At Cucina Enoteca, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a tapas-style platter for sharing.

Cucina Enoteca’s Feast of the Seven Fishes

by BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Christmas tradition with roots in southern Italy, is the most beloved meal of the year in Italian-American households.

As its name suggests, it presents seven different seafood dishes. Sophisticated preparations at Cucina Enoteca center on baked mussels, salt cod, white anchovy, tuna, salmon, octopus and calamari.

“Our feast is tapas-style – a playful approach – seven snacks for people to share,” says Cesar Sarmiento, chef de cuisine at the Irvine Spectrum Center restaurant. The platters are generally enjoyed by two, but if there are four at the table, he says, “we just make double portions. We add on … we keep it affordable.”

The tuna might be a conserva with olive oil, garlic and thyme – “a super umami bomb,” Sarmiento says – the salmon a crudo with white wine, citrus zest and dill. His favorite? “The salt cod is a home run always!”

In Italy, the meal is known as the Vigil and commemorates the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.