The Italian Market buzzed on Monday, as dozens of holiday chefs weaved in and out of butcher shops, the stores of fresh pasta purveyors and, of course, seafood stalls.
Tracy Prioleau has 20 people coming to her South Philadelphia home for her version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Christmas Eve tradition started more than a century ago by Italian-Americans.
A stop at Marco’s Fish Market on South Ninth Street was a must.
“Their fish is fresh. Their seafood is fresh,” said Prioleau as she stood next to the register.
On the menu this year: fried calamari, fried scallops, steamed crabs and mussels, baked and stuffed bluefish, and salmon.
To Prioleau, it’s just not Christmas without the smell of the sea.
“This, to me, is the biggest thing of the year,” said Prioleau of the fish feast. “This gets me in the mood. I’m all jittery now.”
She wasn’t alone. Down the street at Anastasi Seafood, Blake Vogler and his wife were getting into the Christmas spirit by surveying the seafood case for a cioppino stew they’re making for the first time.
The South Jersey couple has made a tradition of coming to the Italian Market the day of Christmas Eve for dinner ingredients.
“We try to do something different every year,” said Vogler.
Melissa Gasparovic’s family sticks with tradition. Christmas Eve means the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
No matter what.
“That’s the Italian way,” said Gasparovic with a laugh. “Getting together with the family is the most important thing.”
Her dad, Michael Nicolosi, wholeheartedly agreed.
“We’re trying to keep tradition alive,” he said.