Christmas Eve Fish Dinner is, without question, the most important, the most festive, the most familial, the warmest and most memorable family gathering. For me, Christmas Eve Dinner surpasses every other holiday, As important and delightful as Thanksgiving of Easter or even Fourth of July might be, nothing approaches the ineffable depth and richness of Christmas Eve Fish Dinner offered a table unlike that of any other holiday.

But before I go further, let’s consider the name of this dinner. Among some Italians that I have questioned it is called “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” for other families, including my own, it was simply Christmas Eve Fish Dinner. There was no specific number of fish involved. Carol Field’ Celebrating Italy, a most thorough study of Italian holidays, notes that Christmas Eve dinner calls for fish but makes no mention of the number of fish dishes. Moving my investigation of the Christmas Eve dinner to Google Italy, I found that it is generally called “Il Cenone della Vigilia” (The great dinner of the Eve.) No Italian site I found made mention of the number of fish. I have the sense that the notion of seven fish may be Italian American and even here only among certain families.

The next question I considered was the type of fish. Almost every reference I found and all the people I interviewed had numerous variations. Among most Italians sites two fish appeared most often, baccalà and eel. Among traditional Italian Americans the two most common dishes were baccalà (usually in a cold salad recipe) and fried smelts. In many younger and less traditionally bound Italian Americans all the old time fish were gone. The new fish platters now included shrimp and fried fish and even fish sticks. Italian Americans are not alone in modernization. It seems that even in Italy the younger generations recoil at the notion of such fish as eel.

While what this dinner is rightly called and which fish are those to be presented seems to vary from region to region and family to family a few things about Christmas Eve fish dinner, go unquestioned. Christmas Eve fish dinner was the one dinner no one missed. Christmas Eve fish dinner was at the home of the patriarch or matriarch. Every child and grandchild was present. The power of the Italian American Christmas Eve dinner overwhelmed all other cultural influences. While the fish dinner may have been rooted in Italy it spread its branches to include and embrace not only those non-Italians who had married into the family but all those of other ethnic backgrounds who were friends beyond the family. Everyone with any association to the family was invited to the Christmas Eve fish dinner.

While all other holiday dinners gathered the family while there was still light in the sky, Christmas Eve Fish Dinner began sometime after sunset. It was and is, the only festive dinner in the Italian American tradition that is shared in darkness. All other holidays in the Italian American tradition are celebrated at the table sometime shortly after noon. Christmas Eve Fish Dinner always began sometime after six in the evening.

Christmas Eve Fish Dinner differs from all other dinners by its lack of structure. Other dinners, whether Sunday Gravy or Easter Sunday follow a certain formality. For other dinners there is always a soup course, an antipasto, the pasta, the main course and then the dessert. The Christmas Eve Fish Dinner was quite different. The Christmas Eve Fish Dinner had courses, but the courses were not single dishes. For the Christmas Eve fish dinner each course was composed of several offerings. And the whole dinner was preceded by a cold table of finger foods that allowed mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews to chatter for an hour or so before dinner began. The finger foods were set on small tables in the living room. The platters included olives, slices of celery and broccoli, and a dish of crackers. There were also plates of cooked shrimp with sides of shrimp cocktail sauce. The olives were from cans and the children liked to slide the pit wholes over their fingers as they chomped on the olives. I would guess that the shrimp and the horseradish based cocktail sauce was an influence from the fashionable restaurants of the time.

After at least an hour of nibbling on the side platters the dinner bell called us to the tables. Yes, tables. In our family there were three. In our center hall style house, the dining room table was turned towards the center hall. A second and third table were butted up to the main table. The three tables continued through the center hall into the living room. Seating was determined by age. The oldest sat in the dining room section; the younger the child the closer to the living room.

There was no soup on Christmas Eve. When we sat at the table we first saw a small bowl of whiting salad with lemon and a serving of “scungilli,” conch. When I was small there was a cold baccalà salad with tomato. These cold fish salads were followed by the pasta. Of course, we never heard or used the word “pasta.” For us the “pasta” dish was one of three possibilities. It changed from year to year. It could be either “Clams and Spaghetti,” “Mussels and Spaghetti,” or “Squid and Spaghetti.” The spaghetti were always the very thin “angel hair” (“capellini.”)

The next course is always a serving of several varieties of fried fish. My Irish background mother prepared several fish offerings in different ways. There are three central dishes. First, she made a tray of plain American fish sticks for the children and for those at the table of a less than Italian heritage. Then, as a middle ground, my mother makes the most exquisite crab cakes that would appeal to Italian traditionalists as much as to the non- Italian in-laws. For the old timers there is always the most wonderful finger food, fried smelts with lemon. There are also fried scallops, fried shrimp, fried calamari and fried oysters.

Following the fried dishes, the table is covered with several trays of broiled scallop, shrimp and clams. Then comes the main fish platter. This platter has no Italian precedent that I know of. My mother introduced this dish about thirty years ago: stuffed orange roughy papillote. The orange roughy papillote is made by splitting the fish into two pieces and filling with a layer of spinach with tomato, garlic and olive oil. The fish is wrapped in parchment and baked.

After a rest and an interlude of conversation the Christmas Eve Fish dinner is crowned by the dish everyone waits for, my mother’s tray of Christmas cookies. We began at five in the evening. After the cookies it is after 11. The culmination of the Christmas Eve Fish Dinner is Midnight Mass. Following Christmas Midnight Mass the family came home to a wonderful breakfast of eggs and bacon and, in Philadelphia, of scrapple. The special delight of the breakfast was the Christmas Bread, a wonderful brioche-like pastry shaped in a ring and decorated with multi-colored sprinkles. But Christmas bread is another page.


















Yes, the best Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village is “Not” CARBONE, “Not” Babbo, and certainly not one of New York’s most “Overrated Restaurants of all, the gossly overrated Il Mulino, which is over-priced, good, but no where near to the high exaltation that those who know little of what makes a great Italian Restaurant give to it.

Greenwich Village without question is tops in New York when it comes to having a string of New York’s best of the best Italian Restaurants. There’s Babbo, the Uber Hot “Restaurant of the Moment,” CARBONE. There is Lupa, which for me and quite a number of others The Batali Bastianich’s best restaurant in New York, not Babbo, no Del Posto. Yes, we will get to Greenwich Village’s Best Italian Resataurant in a string of not only the Village, but all New York. The Best is without question Bar Pitti on 6th Avenue near Bleecker Street and smack dab right next to arch enemy # 1 Da Silvano, a restaruant the gave birth to Bar Pitti but a few years ago had a “Nasty Nasty” highly publicized break-up between former 50 /50 Partners Silvano Marchetto the creator and still owner of Da Silvan which for a number of years rained supremme as New York’s # 1 Hottest Celebrity Restaurant of all (I myself was Maitre’d there during 3 of those years). Anyway Bar Pitti for those in-the-know and those who “Know” what they are talking about, and not some Food Critic that knows just a tiny fraction of what many eithers more cable know. Really seriously under quilified people who are put into place as critics by such, supposedly reputable publications as The New York Time and New York Magazine. It’s a sin.

So yes, Bar Pitti is tops. The food is amazing. And most important, it’s consistenly amazing. The food is always the same. Same being is that dishes like Coda d’Vaccinara (Braised Oxtails) Veal Milanese, Paparadell con Sugo di Cinghiale (Wild Boar Ragu) are authenticall and perfectlly cooked and done so each and every time they are done. If you get one of these dishes or any other on the menu or one of the daily specials, it will be the same if you get it today and then 3 weeks or 3 months down the road. The cooks in that kitcehn are conssitent, consistently good, and near flawless. The food is great, the ambaince and decor quite nice and fitting to what a Italian restaurant should be and that people expect, and not over contrived over-done like some joints such as SD 26 or Georgio Armani’s new restaurant Armani Restorante, both over-done, not warm and in the spirit of a truely great Italian Restaurant and one such as Bar Pitti. Yes, wonderful decor, great food, consisitency, good service, and a super great vibe created by the clientele that frequent the spot, many of whome are in publsihing, movies, advertising, and other high profile positions. 

You can talk all you want about Babbo, which is good. I have had had numerous meals there. The experience is quite nice, with a wonderful warm ambiance, excellent servic and an area that they could teach Bar Pitti a thing-or-two. They have a great wine list, although not the best Italian List in the city as those who again don’t realy know have calaimed to it. That honor goes to Barbetta on West 46th Street which is so off-the-wall great, it makes Babbo’s fine wine-list look like childs play. If you don’t beleive me, check it out. The food at Babbo is very good, but I’ve got to tell you “not always.” I’ve had a few disappointing dished there, which were barely good and far from tasty. In the 21 years I’ve been eating at Bar Pitti I’ve never had such a dish that I’ve been disappointed with the way I have a couple times at Babbo, and I never remember being blown away with any dish the way I have been blown away by Bar Pitti’s Bolito di Manzo, Braised Oxtails, Tagiatelle with Black Summer Truffles or Trippa al Parmigiano, all Awesome. Hey, it may sound like I’m knocking Babbo. I’m not. It’s just that when so many think that one place is the best, and it really isn’t and it has more praise than it deserves and has been highly exalted by people like Frank Bruni and The New York Times and other prominent entities that irrisponsibly “miss-lead” the general public that doesn’t know any better. The general public is counting on entities like the New York Times to report factually. By buying a newspaper or magazine the are paying for good information and when publications like The NY Times, Time Out and othe publications put grossly under-qualified people in position as Food Critics when they know very little, and there are hundreds who know a thousand times fold more than a NY Times Food Critic, it’s is just plain wrong.

So, yes Babbo is dam good, though higher exalted then it really deserves, it’s not as far off the mark as one horrible restaurant around the block from it. A restaurant that is so Highly Over-Rated it’s sinful. This restaurant is IL Mulino, a restaurant that has good food, not great that is way over-priced expensive, the decor is dark and horrible, and the service annoyingly mechanical. The place is a Huge Dissapointement to those who actually know what constitutes a great restaurant, and more specifically a great Italian restaurant, one such as Bar Pitti … Basta !













by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke

by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke




Yes folks,sad but true, Joe’s Dairy is closing. After 60 years in business, the beloved little Cheese Shop, a.k.a. “Jimmy The Cheeseman’s Store” from The Pope of Greenwich Village, will sell their last ball of fresh Home Made Mozzarella (The best in The City) at 6 PM today May, 11 2013, and New York and the Italian Community of South Greenwich Village loses but one more beloved institution.

This is particularly a major blow to we Italian-Americans who lost our much loved Rocco Restorante on Thompson Street in The Village last year. Rocco’s, after 90 years in Greenwich Village lost it’s lease last year and The Torissi Boys quickly swooped in to open “Carbone,” which promised to be a classic Old School Downtown New York Italian Red Sauce Joint like Rocco’s was, but with $50 Veal Parmigiano and $52 Veal Marsala on the menu, it just doesn’t seem so.

And so my friends we lose another beloved old New York Mom-and-Pop business to greed landlords.  It’s a Sin, and we all wish something could be done about this scourge. Bye-Bye Joe’s we’ll surely miss you there on Sullivan Street, and we’re gonna miss New York’s Best Mozz. So we’re do we go now? I still refuse to set food in that awful, overprice commercial enterprise Eataly, that’s for tourist and another type of person I will not mention. Guess I’ll have to walk down to DiPalo’s. Joe’s was only 2 blocks from my house. I’ll miss it so.






Daniel Bellino-Zwicke






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“Yes, It’s Italian” And Over 100 YEARS OLD



John’s Pizzeria  “One of The Best Pizza In New York, Which Means Best in America”



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“Italian Butcher Jack Ubaldi Invented The Newport Steak Here 1947”




FAICCO’S PORK STORE  “The Best in Manhattan”  Fresh Homemade Italian                           Hot Sweet Sausages, Braciole, Salami, Prosciutto, Cheese, and Veal Scallopines







Carbone “In Former Rocco’s Space” New In The VILLAGE








Restaurants, Caffes, Pastry Shops, Pork Stores, Pizzerias


MAP of Greenwich Village Italian

1) Da Silvano
2) John’s Pizzeria
3) Raffetto’s Pasta
4) Porto Rico Coffee
5) Caffe Reggio
6) Bar Pitti
7) Carbone
8) Joe’s Dairy … Fresh Made “Mozzarella”
9) Minetta Tavern .. “Yes It’s Italian” Born Italian …
10) Rocco’s Italian Pastries
11) Faicco’s Pork Store & Italian Specialties
12) Florence Prime Meats

BATALI NOT THE ONLY MARIO IN TOWN “the Town of Greenwich Village”

Yes Boys and girls “Mario Batali” is no longer the only Mario in Town ! The town of Greenwich Village that is where Mario Batali has been The King Mario for some years now with such renowned restaurants as; Po’, Babbo, and Lupa .. Here comes Mario, Mario Carbone that is, a former employee of Mr. Batali at Del Posto where Mario Carbone was a Sous-Chef before opening two renowned restaurants of his own, Torrisi Italian Specialties and “Parm” both side-by-side in 

Noho / Little Italy …

Mario Carbone is now opening his namesake restaurant “Carbone” in the old Rocco’s space on Sullivan Street across from Mario Batali’s Roman Trattoria “Lupa.” Mario Carbone with Co-Chef and Business Partner Rich Torrisi unlike Batali who mostly serves hard-core-authentic Italian Cuisine (of Italy) with Batali twists here-and-there will be serving Italian-American Classics. Mario Carbone that is. Carbone promises old New York Italian Favorites like; Baked Clams, Meatballs, Linguine Vongole (Clam Sauce), Lobster Fra D’Avlo and other Italian and Italian-American Classics. Carbone also says that they are looking to evoke 1950’s Downtown New York Italian style restaurant.

Torrisi and Carbone have done a fine job with their two previous restaurants Parm and Torrisi Italian Specialties and we’re hoping they will continue, and expect they will at “Carbone.” These guys are loved by their followers, yet disdained by some and have already receive quite a bit of negativity on the Internet it seems from the mainly fans of Rocco’s who don’t want to see these guys at Rocco’s and in the neighborhood. I for one used to go to Rocco’s and loved the place. I also like what Torissi and Carbone are doing, and I’m looking forward to Carbone being quite good. If I can’t have Rocco’s, I’ll take Carbone, and am hoping and betting this Mario is gonna be a Winner in The Village, and Greenwich Village Italian and the long honored history it has. good Luck boys!





Daniel Bellino-ZwickeImageHE ONLY



READ of ITALIAN-AMERICAN GREENWICH VILLAGE in Daniel Bellino-Zwicke’s Book “La TAVOLA” Italian-American New Yorkers Adventures of The Table … The Food, The People, The Restaurants, Caffes, Pork Stores, Specialty Shops, Italian Butchers Pizzerias, and More … Stories of; SUNDAY SAUCE, MEATBALLS, CANNOLIS, SAUSAGES, PIZZA, and MEATBALL PARMS .. This Book Is “A MUST READ” For All Italian-Americans, those who Love The Food, Restaurants, Caffes, The People. It’s New York Italian, “And It’s DELIGHTFUL” !!!