"My family is from Calabria, which is probably as south as you can get in Italy without touching the water," Stephens says. "The Feast of Seven Fishes is just a continuation of that tradition."

Believed to have originated in southern Italy, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition, which celebrates the commemoration of the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Of course, it's never an Italian tradition without "” yep, you guessed it "” food, food and more food. Typically, it's seven courses of food, to be exact, with dishes centered on all types of fish, along with accompanying pastas and vegetables. Diners at Bella Luna can expect seven fish dishes this year, along with four to five pasta dishes, a variety of salads, soups and breads, and homemade tiramisu or Italian Christmas cookies for dessert.
"It's part of the Italian "Natale" (which means Christmas), says Stephens. "It's a great time with an incredible amount of food, and a Christmas Eve celebration different from all the others."

So why celebrate like this?

"I think if you have Italian lineage, it's a great way to connect with that," Stephens says. "Or if you have family in town, and are going to be doing a big Christmas dinner, why not do it on Christmas Eve? And finally, if you are Italian and have never celebrated the Feast of Seven Fishes, this is a great way to start your own tradition."

"” JULIANNA ROCHE
 
 
Whether you want local classics or foreign fare, the Tristate offers a wide selection of superior restaurants.
 
$ = Entrées less than $10
$$ = Entrées $11-$19
$$$ = Entrées $20-25
$$$$ = Entrées more than $25

Central

A Tavola, Pizza; 1220 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 246-0192. Wood-fired pizza, bacon-wrapped dates. $$

Ambar India; 350 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 281-7000. Curries and rice dishes from Northern India, including vegetarian options. $$

Amol India; 354 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 961-3600. Large entrées and a lunch buffet in a more casual dining experience. $$

Biagio's Bistro, Italian; 308 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 861-4777. All soups, pastas and desserts are made from scratch in the kitchen. $$

Boi Na Braza, Steakhouse; 441 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 421-7111. This Brazilian steak house is a meat lover's paradise. $$$$

Celestial, Steakhouse; 1071 Celestial St., Mount Adams, (513) 241-4455. The spectacular river view enhances the menu of steak, seafood, chicken and Mediterranean lamb. $$$$

Coffee Emporium, Coffeehouse; 110 E. Central Parkway, Downtown, (513) 651-5483. Stop in for delicious coffee roasted on site, locally made pastries, sandwiches and salads. $

The Cricket Lounge, American; 601 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 381-3000. In the Cincinnatian Hotel, this restaurant boasts light fare and house-made ice creams, sorbets, and live harp, piano and jazz. $$

Daveed's at 934, American; 934 Hatch St., Mount Adams, (513) 721-2665. This eclectic venue offers a new menu daily, specializing in foie gras, seared Digby Bay Scallops, duck breast and tempting desserts. $$$

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille, Pub Food;
161 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown, (513) 621-2222. A home for Reds and Bengals fans serving appetizers, sandwiches, wraps, pizza. Multiple locations. $

Iris BookCafé, American; 1331 Main St., Downtown, (513) 381-2665. Browse the books at this artsy café. Coffee, light soups, salads, sandwiches. $

Izzy's, American; 800 Elm St., Downtown, (513) 721-4241. Famous for its reuben with pickles and a potato pancake on the side. Nine locations. $

Jean-Robert's Table, French; 713 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 621-4777. Elegant French cuisine from Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel. $$$$

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse; 700 Walnut St., Downtown, (513) 784-1200. Racks of lamb, veal, seafood, salads and Amish chicken. $$$$

Local 127, American; 127 W. Fourth St., Downtown, (513) 721-1345. "Farm-to-table" dining is the concept behind this upscale eatery. $$$$

McCormick & Schmick's, Seafood;
21 E. Fifth St., Downtown, (513) 721-9339. The menu evolves to feature the freshest daily catch, with pasta, poultry and aged steaks. $$$

Montgomery Inn, Barbecue; 925 Riverside Drive, Downtown, (513) 721-7427. Try Cincinnati's most famous ribs, along with chicken, fish, steak and sandwiches. Multiple locations. $$$

Mr. Sushi; Asian; 580 Walnut St., (513) 827-9345. Or, if not a fan of sushi, try the teriyaki chicken or fried rice. $$$

Mynt Martini, Tapas; 511 Walnut St., Downtown, (513) 621-6968. Signature drinks, small dishes for lunch or cocktails. $$

Myra's Dionysus, Greek; 121 Calhoun St., Clifton, (513) 961-1578. Healthful flexible options for lunch and dinner, with delicious desserts. $

Nada, Latin; 600 S. Walnut St., Downtown, (513) 721-6232. Upscale tacos feature pork belly, grilled redfish or beef short rib. $$$

Nicholson's, Pub Food, Continental;
625 Walnut St., Downtown, (513) 564-9111. Traditional Scottish such as fish and chips, or shepherd's pie. $$$

Nicola's Ristorante Italiano, Italian; 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 721-6200. Traditional Tuscan fare with housemade pasta. $$$$

Olives, American; 342 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 221-4200. From hearty steaks to vegan options, this is American cuisine dotted with Italian and Asian influences. $$$

Orchids at Palm Court, American; 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown, (513) 564-6465. Award-winning restaurant offers snapper, eggplant, steak, rabbit and scallops. $$$$

The Palace Restaurant, Continental; 601 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 381-6006. The Cincinnatian Hotel's restaurant can please any gourmet foodie. Steak, seafood, pasta, vegetarian. $$$$

The Summit, American; 3520 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, (513) 569-4980. Cincinnati State student chefs prepare an array of entrées under the direction of professionals. $$$

Sung Korean Bistro; 700 Elm St., Downtown, (513) 721-7864. Traditional Korean fare includes soups, noodles, grilled meats. $$$

Teak Thai; 1051 St. Gregory St., Mount Adams, (513) 665-9800. Sushi, sashimi plus ample stir fry, curries, noodles. $$$

Trattoria Roma, Italian; 580 Walnut St., Downtown, (513) 723-0220. Authentic pasta dishes, convenience to Aronoff. $$$

View, American; 2200 Victory Parkway, Walnut Hills, (513) 751-8439. Selections range from fancy comfort food to gourmet indulgence. $$$$

East

20 Brix, American; 101 Main St., Milford, (513) 831-2749. Also a wine bar and retail store. Features steak, pizza, lamb, fish and poultry. $$$

Andy's Mediterranean Grille, Mediterranean; 906 Nassau St., Walnut Hills, (513) 281-9791. Serves fare such as kabobs, falafel, lamb
and shish tawook. $$$

Barresi's Italian Restaurant, Italian; 4111 Webster Ave., Deer Park, (513) 793-2540. Traditional Italian recipes for steak, veal, chicken, fish and pasta. $$$$

Beluga, Asian Fusion; 3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, (513) 533-4444. Asian fare - sushi, steak and poultry - in a contemporary atmosphere. $$$

Boca, Italian, French; 3200 Madison Road, Oakley, (513) 542-2022. Trendy dishes make up three courses. A place to see and be seen. $$$$

The BonBonerie Café, Bakery; 2030 Madison Road, O'Bryonville, (513) 321-3399. Upscale bakery featuring cookies, cupcakes, pastries, $$

Cumin Eclectic Cuisine, Indian Fusion; 3520 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, (513) 871-8714. Indian fuses with world cuisine such as "naanwiches," handmade agnolotti, butter chicken. $$$$

El Coyote, Steakhouse, Mexican; 7404 State Road, Anderson, (513) 232-5757. Tex-Mex entrées are complemented by spiced-up pasta, seafood, steak and chicken. Sip the potent margaritas carefully. $$$

Enoteca Emilia, Italian; 2038 Madison Road, Hyde Park, (513) 834-5773. Fresh pasta, skewered meat, seafood called spiedini, flatbread sandwiches. $$

The Foreign Exchange, Intercontinental; 7991 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, (513) 386-9900. Thai dishes and sushi; domestic favorites like burgers and steaks. $$

Hugo, Southern; 3235 Madison Road, Oakley, (513) 321-4846. Southern roots shine with shrimp and grits, quail, Charleston she-crab soup. $$$

Indigo, Continental; 2637 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, (513) 321-9952. Fresh salads, pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are Indigo's focus. $$$

Laszlo's Iron Skillet, Continental; 6900 Valley Lane, Newtown, (513) 561-6776. Serves unique continental cuisine and weekly specials. $$

Nectar, American; 1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, (513) 929-0525. Menu changes frequently, but expect smoked salmon benedict, goetta melts, shrimp fritters. $$$

Pera, Meditteranean; 1026 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, (513) 371-5195. Cuisine from both coasts of the Mediterranean, from savory lamb to refreshing salads. $$$

Precinct; 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum, (513) 321-5454. Steak is king here; dishes are named for Joe Nuxhall and Marvin Lewis. $$$$

Quarter Bistro, Continental; 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, (513) 271-5400. Savor steaks, seafood, pork, pasta, poultry. $$$$

Terry's Turf Club, American; 4618 Eastern Ave., Linwood, (513) 533-4222. Known for gourmet burgers and distinctive neon décor. $$

Wine Guy Bistro, Italian, Continental; 2692 Madison Road, Suite K1, Norwood, (513) 834-5712. Learn about wine; enjoy small plates such as cheese with fruit compote, chicken marsala and bacon-wrapped prawns. $$$

Northeast

Amma's Kitchen, Indian; 7633 Reading Road, Roselawn, (513) 821-2021. Vegetarian Indian cuisine. $$

Antonio's, Italian; 7165 Liberty Centre Drive, West Chester, (513) 755-7242. Upscale Italian dining. $$$

Aroma, Japanese; 7875 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, (513) 791-0950. Try the standard sushi offerings or entrées such as coconut chicken. $$$

Café Bella, Mediterranean; 5948 Snider Road, Mason, (513) 770-4141. Soups, salads, entrées, desserts inspired by Mediterranean life. $$$

Carlo & Johnny, Steakhouse; 9769 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, (513) 936-8600. Old Hollywood glamour accompanies Jeff Ruby's steaks; also sushi, seafood, ribs. $$$$

Eddie Merlot's, Seafood, Steakhouse; 10808 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, (513) 489-1212. Exceptional prime-aged steak, an extensive selection of fine wine and an array of fresh bread. $$$$

Embers, Steakhouse; 8170 Montgomery Road, Madeira, (513) 984-8090. Choose from sushi and continental favorites such as New York Strip, baby back ribs, seared sea scallops and lobster tail. $$$$

Germano's, Italian; 9415 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, (513) 794-1155. Authentic Italian cuisine features pasta, seafood, chicken and veal dishes. $$$

Golden Lamb Inn, American; 27 S. Broadway, Lebanon, (513) 932-5065. Eatery at Ohio's oldest hotel has roast turkey, pork chops, salmon, leg of lamb and much more. $$$

Jag's, Steakhouse, Seafood; 5980 West Chester Road, West Chester, (513) 860-5353 . Intimate restaurant offers Kobe beef, sushi, Ahi tuna, lobster tails and an array of steaks. $$$$

La Petite France, French; 3177 Glendale-Milford Road, Evendale, (513) 733-8383. French seafood, chicken, rack of lamb, duck breast and filet mignon, in bistro and private dining rooms. $$$$

Maggiano's Little Italy, Italian; 7875 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, (513) 794-0670. Family-sized portions of Southern Italian cuisine. $$$

Montgomery Inn, Barbecue; 9440 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, (513) 791-3482. Cincinnati's favorite ribs, along with chicken, fish, steak and sandwiches, in the restaurant's original location. $$$

Parker's Blue Ash Grill, Steakhouse; 4200 Cooper Road, Blue Ash, (513) 891-8300. Pasta, salad, steak and chicken for lunch and dinner. Sunday brunch. $$$

Polo Grille, Continental; 5035 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, (513) 701-7656. On the grounds of the original Cincinnati Polo Club; pizza, pasta, seafood, steak and chicken. $$$

Relish Modern Tapas; 5947 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, (513) 204-6925. The Spanish tradition of small plates is enhanced by world cuisines. Meat, chicken, seafood and vegetarian options available. $$$

Tandoor Cuisine of India, Indian; 8702 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, (513) 793-7484. Savory clay oven dishes of meat, poultry and breads. Exotic curries. $$

Tony's, Steakhouse; 12110 Montgomery Road, Loveland, (513) 677-1993. Savor steaks, seafood and Mediterranean entrées while live jazz music sets the mood. $$$$

Trio, American; 7565 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, (513) 984-1905. Sandwiches, soups, pastas, specialty pizza, steaks and fresh seafood. $$$

Vincenzo's, Italian; 11525 Chester Road, Sharonville, (513) 771-0022. This upscale neighborhood restaurant also offers a private room for up to 60 guests. $$$

The Works, Italian, American; 20 Grear Millitzer Lane, Loveland, (513) 697-8408. Variety of brick-oven pizzas and other casual menu items. $$$

Northwest

Fox & Hound Pub & Grille, American; 5113 Bowen Drive, Mason, (513) 229-7921. With plenty of beer specials, a patio and pool room, this neighborhood spot is a great place to wind down. $

Grand Finale, American; 3 E. Sharon Ave., Glendale, (513) 771-5925. Lunch and dinner include American and international cuisines, as well as highly acclaimed desserts. Brunch is offered on Sundays. $$$

Half Day Café, American; 1 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, (513) 821-2323. Serving traditional breakfast and lunch, with specialty items like the chicken and brie quesadilla or orange stuffed French toast. $

Iron Horse, American; 40 Village Square, Glendale, (513) 772-3333. The downstairs serves upscale fare while a tavern operates upstairs at the 1800s historic spot. $$$

Pappadeaux, Seafood; 11975 North West Blvd., Springdale, (513) 671-4473. Oysters, shrimp, alligator, lobster, crab and etouffee. $$$

Vinoklet Winery, Steakhouse; 11069 Colerain Ave., Colerain, (513) 385-9309. Grill your own steak at this working winery and restaurant. $$$

The White House Inn, American; 4940 Mulhauser Road, Hamilton, (513) 860-1110. "Heartland cooking." $$$

West

Cancun, Mexican; 6385 Glenway Ave., Cheviot, (513) 574-1639. Traditional Mexican fare, vegetarian options. $$

Henke Winery, American; 3077 Harrison Ave., Westwood, (513) 662-9463. Henke's own wine with salmon, steak, herb grilled chicken breast, filet mignon or pizza. $$$

Honey, Continental; 4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, (513) 541-4300. This casual, fine dining spot pairs wines with an ever-changing menu. $$$

Ko-Sho, Japanese; 4172 Hamilton Ave., Northside. (513) 665-4950. Sushi and Japanese teriyaki, tempura, noodles and pot dishes. $$

Maury's Tiny Cove, American, Steakhouse; 3908 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, (513) 662-2683. Sandwiches, seafood, chicken, steak or ribs. $$

Melt, American; 4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, (513) 681-6358. "Eclectic deli": many vegetarian options in gourmet sandwiches and salads. $

Nick and Tom's Restaurant and Bar, American; 5774 Bridgetown Road, Bridgetown, (513) 574-4242. Offers classic dishes like New York Strip and ribs with signature entrées. $$

Primavista, Italian; 810 Matson Place, Price Hill, (513) 251-6467. With a stunning view, this romantic spot has pasta, seafood and steak. $$$$

Vitor's Bistro, Intercontinental; 3232 Harrison Ave., Westwood, (513) 481-5333. Try the award-winning French toast. $$$

Northern Kentucky

Behle Street Café, American; 50 E. RiverCenter Blvd., Covington, (859) 291-4100. American classics with signature martinis. $$

Bellevue Bistro, American; 313 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, (859) 581-5600. Menu changes monthly for seasonal ingredients and dishes. $

Blinkers Tavern, Continental; 318 Greenup St., Covington, (859) 360-0840. Italian pastas, burgers, BBQ baby back ribs, Cajun chicken. $$

Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar, American; 519 Main St., Covington, (859) 491-7777. Pair wine from the extensive bar with entrées such as sea scallops or game hen. $$$

Brio Tuscan Grille, Italian; 1 Levee Way, Newport, (859) 431-0900. Lasagna, veal marsala, pasta alla vodka, Tuscan filet in the dining room or patio. $$$$

Chez Nora, American, Cajun; 530 Main St., Covington, (859) 491-8027. Crab cakes, sandwiches, steak and pasta. $$

The Classy Pig, Barbeque; 214 Elm St., Ludlow, (859) 491-7675. Tender and flavorful; enjoy hickory smoked BBQ ribs and brisket, as well as burgers and smoked chicken. $

Dee Felice Café, Cajun; 529 Main St., Covington, (859) 261-2365. Enjoy live jazz while eating deep-fried oysters, etouffee, Cajun chicken, tournedos and more. $$$

Dewey's, Pizza; 1 Levee Way, Newport, (859) 431-9700. Seven locations for gourmet pizza and salad. $$

Grandview Tavern & Grille, American; 2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell, (859) 341-8439. Classic dishes with a gourmet twist. $$$

Greyhound Tavern, American; 2500 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, (859) 331-3767. Steak, fish, chicken and meatloaf. $$

Hofbräuhaus, German; 200 E. Third St., Newport, (859) 491-7200. Authentic Bavarian food and beer at the first Hofbräuhaus in the U.S. $$

Molly Malone's

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