Hometown Hungers: San Francisco Cioppino

Dive into a steaming bowl of San Francisco’s signature stew. This comforting dish brings together a luscious tomato base with a variety of succulent seafood.
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Photo by: THEPALMER ©Roberto A Sanchez

THEPALMER, Roberto A Sanchez

When the fog rolls through the waterfront city of San Francisco, few dishes can ward off the ensuing chill like a steaming bowl of cioppino.

This tomato-based stew sings with the flavors of the sea, as any version done right comes crammed with a veritable bounty from the ocean in every bite. Though seafood is the constant of this dish, there is no set standard as to what kind must be used. Seasonings and type of stock also vary, though the base traditionally includes tomatoes.

Though the history of San Francisco’s signature stew is as nebulous as the city’s famous fog itself, this comforting staple is believed to have come into existence more than a century ago. Italian fishermen who migrated to the area are credited with having invented the dish, whose name and ingredients are similar to the seafood stew ciuppin that originated in Liguria, Italy. It’s thought that they combined whatever they happened to reel in on any given day with a base made from tomatoes to create the prototype that came to be known as cioppino.

This dish that started off as a simple way for fishermen to satiate their appetites eventually lured the interest of local restaurateurs. The late Rose Alioto was one of the first to offer it, creating a version in the 1930s for her waterfront restaurant, Alioto’s. This iconic restaurant, which is still standing on Fisherman’s Wharf, continues to attract crowds hungry for a taste of the classic stew.

Cioppino has since seeped past the confines of San Francisco and can now be found simmering on restaurant stoves across the country. This Food Network gallery reveals which spots are ladling out the most-luscious spins.

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