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Alfred Portale, Gotham Bar and Grill, New York City
In Buffalo, New York, we had beautiful white Christmases. We're Sicilian, so we'd have fish on Christmas Eve and a big afternoon meal on Christmas Day. We'd start with fruit cocktail, then homemade ricotta ravioli— we'd always count the number on each other's plates to make sure they were fairly divided—and then prime rib. My mother went to a great Italian butcher, with hanging salamis and hams, and bins of olives on the floor. As a kid I thought the place smelled strange. The butcher would save the front ribs for her; that's the best cut—the meat's more flavorful. She'd make slits in it with the tip of her knife, press in cloves of garlic, then rub the whole roast with rosemary and salt and let it sit overnight. Christmas Day, she'd roast it with vegetables and serve it with compote of quinces and apples. It was fantastic.

Recipes: Roasted Prime Rib, Apple-Quince Compote