Editor’s Note: Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside”.
In my blog post last Christmas I shared our family tradition for Christmas Eve. I also confessed to cheating, a little. I have been combining the seven fishes into one dish, a fish stew called Cippino. In some of the feedback I received a challenge, come up with seven individual dishes and do it the right way. After much soul searching I have decided I need help, so, I’m asking for feedback.
I received many comments about the Seven Fishes Blog. Most surprising to me was how the Seven Fishes tradition was being passed down to the present day generation. Italians, of course, have carried on the tradition and continue to share with friends and family who may not be Italian. Some of my friends and cousins have incorporated seafood ideas from other cultures into the Seven Fishes prepared for Christmas Eve. In a similar way the New Northside has become a “Gateway to many Nations”. It is where a blending of many cultures is under way to build a new neighborhood.
Sometimes the best way to bring people together is by sharing food, conversation and ideas. We share the tradition because it is fun and it makes us feel closer to our loved ones, both living and dead. We all do the best we can but no one does it quite like Grandma did. A big part of the fun is not just remembering what our grandparents did but finding a way to share it with others.
My mission this year is to spread the fun and share the joy I feel for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. So, I am asking for help from the readers of this Blog, in addition to my family and friends. In doing this research I found that the Polish have a Christmas Eve tradition. Noodles with poppy seeds and raisins is one of the 21 possible courses shared by some Polish families. I am, however, looking for fish recipes so as to stay consistent with the Seven Fishes theme.
Last year my cousin Tony Cicci mentioned that he incorporated some Asian influence into the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Since then I have consulted with many individuals searching for ideas. My mother-in-law Barb Malone makes a wonderful Shrimp Fried Rice and suggested I incorporate this tasty dish into the Christmas Eve party. My wife Kelly would love to see Clams Casino on the menu. I am going to include a Calamari Salad inspired by the Caruso family famous for the wonderful Aunt Josie’s restaurant formerly on North Salina Street.
My favorite suggestion came from Terry Riley. It is an appetizer big enough to serve as a meal, Mussels New Orleans. I have had it many times at his restaurant, Riley’s on Park Street. It is an aromatic combination of tender mussels, a cream sauce and hot pepper. Dunking one’s bread in the sauce is delightful.
Think about the possibilities, imagine the smiling satisfied expressions, and send me your suggestions. On Facebook that should be easy. On the Northside UP web page look for the word “comment” in white lettering then click on it. I dialog box should pop up. Remember to maintain the seafood theme. Imagine a cultural mix of flavors that can help build our old neighborhood into our new neighborhood. Let’s find a way to share our best ideas and embrace the season of peace, Christmas. Bono Natalie, to all!