Lepold-Gangemi Christmas Eve Dinner

by Charlottesville29


Today marks the first ever honorary entry into The Charlottesville 29: the Lepold-Gangemi Christmas Eve dinner.

Several years ago, one of my best friends made the mistake of inviting my family to his annual Christmas Eve celebration. Though he’s regretted it every moment since, my family is thrilled to spend the holiday there each year. Why? Certainly not for the company – that’s terrible. But, the food – the food is outstanding. As is the service. So good in fact that the meal has earned the first ever honorary entry into The Charlottesville 29.

My friend is from Rochester, arguably the capital of Italian-America. And, so we have an Italian-American feast, presided over by an Italian-American matriarch who, like all Italian-American matriarchs, requires you to keep eating until you are either unconscious or faking it well. She is one of the most loving people I’ve ever met, but she will not tolerate abstinence. Think Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond, but far less annoying.

So, what does she serve? First, there is an amazing spread of antipasti. Though I blew it the first year, I have since learned not to overdo the antipasti. As enticing as she is, with cured meats and calamari salad, you must resist her siren’s call. There’s too much good stuff to come. But, with an Italian-American matriarch in the house, this is easier said than done. Sometimes I have to lie and say I already had a big plate of antipasti (she sees right through this), and other times I just go and hide in the bathroom.

The lying and hiding is worth it, though. Stomach real estate is at a premium on Christmas Eve. Why? Because of what comes next. Endless amounts of pasta with endless amounts of delicious sauces. After seeing the array of sauces my first year attending the feast, I knew right away that one plate would not be enough, so I always make myself a minimum of two plates right from the start. The sauces, which I eat all of, are said to come from Nick’s Seabreeze Inn, a magical place my friend claims really exists. They include:

  • Calamari in Red Sauce
  • Tuna
  • White Clam
  • Veal French
  • Chicken French
  • Artichoke French

Why “French”, and what is it? I’ve been smart enough never to ask, but “French” appears to mean something like “floured and egg-battered and sautéed in a white wine sauce.” Whatever it is, it compels you to eat incessantly.

I’ve heard they serve dessert, too, but by then have never been sufficiently coherent to confirm. Anyhow, the meal is just minutes away now. And, l can’t wait.

May all of your holidays be at least half as delicious. Happy Christmas!