There is no better place to enjoy the Feast of the Seven Fishes than in New Orleans. The city is surrounded by an abundance of seafood that is ingrained into most New Orleanians’ diets. For the second year, Emeril’s Delmonico offers their take on the Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition with a four-course menu.
“This year, we’re trying to push a little more balance in terms of what traditional Italian seafood preparations are and what New Orleanians want to eat,” Anthony Scanio, Delmonico’s Chef de Cuisine, explains. “Don’t worry, last year I didn’t cook any eel. I know better than that.”
On Tuesday, December 24, diners will enjoy seven types of seafood at the St. Charles Avenue restaurant. Some are regional, while others, like lobster, are not. According to Scanio, it is very traditional in Italian cookery to have dishes that reflect the abundance and to put multiple types of seafood in a single dish. Chef Scanio does this by combining jumbo lump crab, gulf shrimp, and scallops in the Insalata di Mare. While the meal could be spread over seven or eight courses, he prefers a shorter, more savory experience. “I don’t think our guests want seven tiny little courses. A bounty of seafood will make our guests happy and it reflects both New Orleans and Italian traditions.”
The feast, which includes a wine pairing, will be offered from 11:30 a.m. and the last of the guests will be seated at 6 p.m. The meal is sure to feel like a Friday in New Orleans: a little bit of work in the morning before tucking into a long, luxurious lunch. Following the tasty first course salad, come three mouthwatering courses containing baked oysters on the half shell, tuna meatballs, and lobster paired with saffron risotto.
Scanio’s goal is to have guests discuss the courses upon departure. “I want everyone to enjoy everything but that’s part of the whole experience: you look forward to what you’re about to eat, you’re eating it, then you discuss it. It’s very much the Italian way.”
Making a fish-centric menu (that successfully combines both Italian and New Orleans traditions) wasn’t as stressful as one might think. Scanio, who has been with Delmonico since 2005, creates specials for the restaurant daily, as well as tasting menus for holidays like Thanksgiving and works on themed menus throughout the year. He found that having parameters allowed him to focus and allowed him to be more creative. “But, delicious [food] is always more important than creative,” he says knowingly. “I’m happiest to represent this tradition and create within this tradition.”
The meal comes to a finish with a classic tiramisu, featuring homemade ladyfingers, which is purposefully not too rich or heavy. “The next day is Christmas day. You’re going to do the whole thing over again. You have to pace yourself!”
The dessert isn’t the only treat of the day: the 19th century building is thoughtfully decorated for the holidays; wreaths are placed throughout Delmonico and a fresh garland adorns the staircase. Live music near the bar contributes to the day’s festivities. The restaurant, which was purchased in 1998 by Chef Emeril Lagasse, is filled with natural light and features souvenirs from Lagasse family trips to Italy like the showstopping handblown chandelier and a gate in the upper level wine room. Whether you enjoy the feast downstairs or up above St. Charles, guests will revel in the history and charm throughout.
One of Scanio’s most cherished parts of the holiday is seeing the multiple generations, from young children to grandparents, gather. “You don’t usually see that at a fine dining restaurant, but to see families dining together on holidays makes me very happy.”
This article was featured in the December 2019 Issue of Adore Magazine.