Ahh, Cioppino! (Sho-pi-no) A beautiful San Francisco legacy – gifted to our region in the 1800s by the Italian American fisherman who tilled the local waters just off the coast. 

How and When was Cioppino Created?

According to local lore; This tomato-based seafood stew was invented by cunning Italian fishermen who regularly donated some of their catch to one another. When someone returned home from a long day without a catch, they would take a pot around to their friends on Fisherman’s Wharf asking for alms in the form of seafood! 

The fishermen who’d caught fish that day would generously tithe some of their winnings to their friends, lest they themselves came home empty handed the next day and needed the favor returned. 

 And if that doesn’t warm your heart … just wait until you try it!

Because cioppino is a whatever’s-fresh-and-available type of stew in its nature; there is no strict recipe for it. As long as you toss some local sea critters in a tomato broth, you’ve (technically) got cioppino. That being said, as long as we’re being traditionalists, let’s walk you through some key points of a respectable cioppino. 

Imagine this: a pot of local tomatoes toasting over the crackle of a wood burning stove.  Drop in some garlic, a little fennel, a sweet onion along with a nice white wine and fresh fish stock and let all that come to a gentle boil. (It’s ok. You can take a few moments to smell the broth before moving on to the next steps.)

Once you’ve finished enjoying yourself, drop in a sack of fresh muscles, a cut of sea bass, some salmon, maybe calamari; and if you’re making this in the winter, a few cracked Dungeness crab legs are a MUST. At this point, you’re essentially finished with the prep.

Now you simply allow all that Pacific Ocean goodness to marinate in the broth and cook. After a few quick minutes, the steam slowly lifts out of the pot and announces to all in attendance that something tasty is on the horizon. The mussels and clams open and invite the outside world into their shells. The fishes’ fat liquifies and augments the (now glorious) broth. The crab meat is nearly melting inside the shell, just waiting to be cracked open. 

 By the time the cioppino hits the table and a fresh sourdough baguette rolls out of the oven, (another local tradition), it’s time to eat! 

Grab a bib if you must, because it can get crazy out there. 

Don’t forget to take a moment to give thanks for the fishermen (and women!) who caught the stars of the show…and dig in!

We should mention- The world has caught on to our not-so-little secret. Cioppino can be found across the lower 48.  However, if you really want to get to know Cioppino; it’s rich history, and it’s delicate flavors, you’ll have to come to San Francisco.  We’d recommend Soto Mare on Green St. or (go figure) Cioppino on Fisherman’s Wharf. 

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