The Feasts of Natale, an Italian Christmas

This year, Amano is bringing the taste of Italy to our little Italian restaurant in West Malling with delicious seasonal feasts packed with flavour and choice.

For gatherings of family, friends and colleagues all celebrating the season, our 2019 festive set menus have something for everyone. Whether you are looking for seafood pasta and a porcini and oyster mushroom risotto or roast turkey with pigs in blankets, we’ve got something you’ll love.

We’ve got a special brunch offer planned for Christmas eve too. Guests can enjoy our bottomless brunch with two hours of free-flowing prosecco and two tasty breakfast dishes from our brunch menu which sees an Italian twist on your morning favourites for just £30.

Guests joining us in our restaurant on Christmas day will feast on traditional Christmas fare that sits comfortably alongside the fantastic festive flavours of Italy. Our Christmas day menu starts with an antipasti sharing platter of burrata and smoked aubergine, prawns and aioli, smoked salmon with dill creme fraiche, prosciutto and pickles and meatballs in tomato sauce. For the feast main guests will tuck in to roast turkey or beef rib eye with roast potatoes, winter root vegetables and greens, cranberry sauce and pigs in blankets and desserts are served sharing style, with a pandoro bread and butter pudding and a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter on the menu. In true feast style, the puddings will be followed by some delicious Italian cheeses with homemade chutney, bread and grapes, before a post-dinner coffee and biscotti.

Christmas in Italy is celebrated over several weeks from early December until the day of the Epiphany on the 6th January. For many families, the festivities begin on the 6th of December with St Nicholas Day. Children write letters to ‘Babbo Natale’, however the celebrations really begin on the 8th, when Italians celebrate the immaculate conception. This is when many begin to put out their decorations, while a cannon is fired from Rome’s Castel Sant Angelo to mark the start of the celebrations.

Food is an integral part of Italian culture and this is more true than ever at Christmastime. Traditionally, the 24th December is a day of fasting, with festivities starting only after the evening mass. The evening meal is often known as the ‘Feast of Seven Fishes’ and, and whilst dishes vary region to region,it is usually based around seafood rather than meat. Oysters and clams are often eaten as they are seen as luxurious, and baccalà or salted cod is a famous classic enjoyed by many. In Northern Italy you will often find stuffed pastas and gnocchi, whilst Veneto is known for buckwheat spaghetti in a creamy anchovy sauce. No matter where you celebrate, the sweet treats are a certainty. Biscotti, pandoro, torrone and panettone will all be found.

On Christmas day, the ‘Cenone’ (which literally means ‘big dinner’) can last for hours and is typically meat based. It begins with platters of antipasti. Cured hams, fine cheeses, olives and artichokes are all served as part of a sharing starter. This is then followed by pasta. In central and southern Italy, baked pasta is a mush whilst in northern Italy, it is not uncommon for families to enjoy a lasagne! This is followed by the main event – the meat. Roasted veal, braised beef, baked chicken and sausages are all common Christmas meals worth celebrating and are served with lots of vegetables, potatoes and salads.The meal often ends with a pannetone, a sweet, bread-like cake which originates from Milan, as well as other desserts filled with nuts which are historically a symbol of fertility for the coming year.

The Natale festivities continue into the 26th December. On Boxing day or ‘il giorno di Santo Stefano’ more distant relatives and friends gather for lunch. It is customary to enjoy leftovers, but while there are no particular culinary traditions, Santo Stafano’s lunch tends to be less elaborate than the preceding Christmas feasts, and much more creative, with Italians using it as an opportunity to try more unusual pasta dishes or exotic soups. After days in the kitchen, many Italians also eat out, opting for a restaurant meal as a refreshing break from the kitchen.

Amano is an Italian restaurant in the bustling market town of West Malling in Kent, serving authentic Italian dishes, drinks and desserts as well as homemade pizzas and fresh pasta dishes with pasta made in a dedicated on-site pasta cellar.