1220 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 | (202) 835-0459

Celebrating the Holidays the Italian Way

Spending Christmas in Italy can be an enlightening experience for those of us who are tired of the commercial frenzy surrounding the holidays here. Traditionally, family is at the heart of Italian Christmas – Natale – not packages and tinsel. Children do not write letters to Santa but instead to their parents, expressing their appreciation. In many households, the letters are ceremoniously read by the father after Christmas Eve dinner. Italians celebrate this joyous season from Christmas Eve (starting with the Feast of Seven Fishes) until the Epiphany on January 6 which is their main day of gift giving. In the Italian tradition, La Befana, a witch who tried to follow the three wise men, wanders around each Christmas bringing gifts to children hoping to find the Christ child.

Francesco told me that as a child, he would leave his shoes at the foot of his bed (no stockings hung by the chimney with care in the Ricchi’s house) on the night of January 5th in the hopes that the friendly old witch would fill them with candy and not coal. Instead of carrots for Santa’s reindeer, Italian children would leave hay for La Befana’s donkey. The first Christmas I spent at Cercina, I was surprised to see they didn’t put up a Christmas tree, but instead a presepio or nativity scene. Babbo Natale or Santa Claus was a figure from the northern European countries. The Italian Christmas holiday is more about spending time and sharing a meal together than exchanging presents. The emphasis is on family. The old Italian saying is “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” – “Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want.” Read more

Though the Feast of the Seven Fishes in not celebrated in Tuscany, it is in southern Italy and Sicily – and so it has become a tradition of mainly America’s Italian immigrants. They abstain from eating meat on the eve of Christ’s birth, but still find a way to celebrate by preparing a feast of a variety of fish. We have taken a bit of artistic license and have crafted a menu of modern day specialties that we are sure you will enjoy for 3 days leading up to Christmas. Join us for the Feast of Seven Fishes, Friday-Saturday, December 21-22 or on Christmas Eve – Monday, December 24, from 5:30-10 pm. We will begin with smoked river trout pâté crostini and prawn salad with cannellini beans followed by Tuscan crab fritters with crispy prosciutto and rich lobster risotto. Next we’ll serve the thinnest strands of hand-cut pasta with manila clams and roasted zucchini only to then finish with Tuscany’s famous fish stew, Cacciucco, a medley of 7 different types of fish. The sweet finale will be a panettone trifle with mascarpone chocolate cream and toasted hazelnuts. $95 (exclusive tax and tip). 

Change up your NYE routine, and experience an Italian NYE tradition as you indulge in pork and lentils which Italians consider a good luck meal. Plan now to attend our NYE Party – Cenone di San Silvestro, Monday, December 31 at 5:30 pm. Choose 1 of 4 options for each of your 4 courses including my favorite, Nonna Irma’s homemade, three-meat tortellini with veal reduction, or try our grilled swordfish steak with a divine lemon and fresh herb salsa. Toast the New Year with a complimentary flute of Italian sparkling. $95 (exclusive tax and tip). We will be prepared with hats, noisemakers, confetti, streamers and hundreds of floating balloons! 

Make it a family tradition (as many have done), and spend the night before Christmas with your extended i Ricchi family. Make reservations for both of these events now by calling (202) 835-0459. See menus and more info here

Comments are closed.