by Terry Rogers
Growing up in Italy, the Laragione family spent many Christmas Eve’s enjoying a traditional Italian meal. Unlike American traditions of ham and turkey on Christmas Eve, in Southern Italy where the Laragione’s are from, Christmas Eve meal consists of seafood with no meat served during the celebration. This year, Franco Laragione is bringing that tradition to Mama Maria’s Restaurant with a Seven Fishes Dinner.
“The entire menu is based on the traditions in Southern Italy that we grew up with,” Laragione said. “During this meal, there is no meat and no pasta. Instead, we create dishes with shrimp, clams, calamari and fish.”
The Seven Fishes dinner at Mama Maria’s on Christmas Eve will be a four-course meal, beginning with a soup course of lobster bisque. The second course will be fritto misto consisting of calamari, shrimp, clams, scallops as well as baccala, an Italian fish dish that is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve.
“After the appetizer, guests can choose from fish-based entrees,” Laragione said. “We are offering branzino, which is a type of fish, pan-seared salmon as well as crab or lobster and shrimp ravioli. The final course is any dessert on the menu.”
Laragione says he felt that the Seven Fishes dinner was an excellent way to highlight his Italian heritage and share it with his guests. His research found that the ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of avoiding meat and dairy on specific holidays, which included Christmas. The number seven has meaning that dates back to ancient times and is connected to many Catholic symbols, including the seven sacraments, days of the Creation and the deadly sins.
“In the early 1900s, Italian-American families began creating the Feast of the Seven Fishes, rekindling Christmas Eve traditions from the old country. The seven-course meal was made up entirely of seafood, hence the name it was given. This made them feel like they were close to their old country while celebrating the sea, something that is very important in Italy. Today, it is one of the oldest Italian traditions.”
Mama Maria’s will be open on Christmas Eve from 10 AM until 11 PM where guests can get a taste of the Old Country with their Seven Fishes dinner. The restaurant is located at 945 North Dupont Boulevard in Milford. Reservations can be made by calling 302-422-2661.