San Francisco is one of the only places in the country to find cioppino, an Italian-inspired but locally-refined fish stew. Most non-Bay Area residents have never even heard of it, but with Dungeness crab season winding down, we recommend a date with a big bowl of cioppino sooner than later. Along with crab, typical components of cioppino usually include clams, mussels, shrimp and white fish (depending on seasonal availability).
The origin of cioppino is the subject of some debate. A San Francisco legend states that the fish stew resulted from newly-arrived Italian fishermen at the Wharf. Supposedly, boisterous cooks at seaside eateries consistently asked the local salts to “chip in!” and toss random seafood into the big pot of bubbling mixture of fresh tomatoes and red wine.
On the other hand, Wikipedia says that ciuppin is the colloquial term for a Ligurian fish stew. With the proliferation of northern Italian immigrants in early San Francisco, we think it’s possible that the true origin of cioppino could be an amalgamation of the two stories.
With the help of our little Find-A-Food buddy, we scan the menus for cioppino, post-jump.
• Scoma’s ($29-30): Many will argue that Scoma’s has the freshest seafood in the city. They should; they have their own fleet of fishing boats. Their cioppino is considered the classic incarnation: heavy, generously portioned and full of fresh crab.
• Tadich Grill ($21.50): The other destination restaurant for cioppino, Tadich offers a lighter broth atop their house-baked crusty sourdough. They don’t take reservations, which is either a blessing or curse, depending on your wait.
• Stinking Rose (sm $19.95, med $34.95, lg $49.95): Do we even have to say it? If you want a garlic-infused version …
• Rose Pistola ($36): One of North Beach’s oldest haunts “chips in” a handful of calamari into the pot. At $36, it’s a bit pricier than most, but hey, rents ain’t what they used to be.
[Photo courtesy: Flickr]