Three Feasts of the Seven Fishes and Early-Bird New Year’s Dinners are Just the Ticket

Insalata di Mare (seafood salad)

Three of the city’s most recognizable eye-talian restaurants will honor the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve—and seafood lovers are rejoicing. Lots of baccala (salted cod) is used throughout menus for the night; the simple, preserved fish is a nod to what was abundant in Southern Italy during harder days.

Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante (in the Venetian, 702-266-9977) for example, features traditional baccala croquettes as part of its four-course menu that’s being offered December 23-27. The redheaded, orange-Croc’d chef also includes one of his amazing raw fish preparations, fluke crudo, as well as his famous grilled octopus.

Giada di Laurentiis gets in the fish game at her first namesake restaurant (in the Cromwell, 702-777-3777), starting off her holiday tasting menu ($150) with an antipasto platter featuring her own version of baccala fritters, as well as lobster arancini, fritto misto and insalta di inforzo, a salad of broccoli and giardiniera, often dressed with extra anchovies. You can move on to more extravagant courses such as the third-course choice salt-crusted branzino for two or grilled lobster with citrus herb butter.

Southern Italian specialists Rao’s (in Caesars Palace, 702-731-7267) offers a few of its signatures for the special menu, including some of the greatest clams oreganato in town and the classic light and bright seafood salad, chock-full of lobster, squid, crab and shrimp.

Better to eat the fishes than sleep with them, I always say.

If sleep is higher on your New Year’s agenda than, say, fireworks or Lady Gaga, but about on par with eating well, there is no shame in the early-seating game on December 31. Many restaurants do offer prix-fixe menus, but then it becomes an issue of scoring a reservation late enough to last to see the fireworks or catch a show—if you can score a reservation at all.

If you’re not afraid of eating early and then shuffling off (home, to start drinking early, or as previously mentioned, to pass out before midnight), the 5 p.m. hour seatings is where you should be. The tony Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (in Wynn, 702-770-3463) opens its doors with a three-course menu ($125) of straight-from-the-Mediterranean seafood at 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 6 p.m.

On the other end of the Strip, Aureole (in Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7401) boasts a 5:30 p.m. seating of five courses ($150) decked out with luxurious American ingredients such as Hudson Valley foie gras, Maine lobster and Santa Barbara prawns.

Or go classic with four courses from 35 Steaks & Martinis (in Hard Rock Hotel, 702-693-5500; $120 early seating, $140 late seating, $40 wine pairing) that can include duck rillettes, endive and spinach salad, and green peppercorn-crusted petite filet. Then, you can go wherever you want to bid 2014 farewell.


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