Hometown Hungers: Best Cioppino Outside of San Francisco

Sink your spoon into a steaming bowl of this signature stew without even finding your way to Fog City. These charming spots across the country are ladling up luscious spins of their own.

Photo By: DAWN HEUMANN ©Dawn Heumann Photography

Photo By: Mei-Chun Jau ©Mei-Chun Jau

A Ladleful of Comfort

The origin story of San Francisco’s seafoodcentric stew (aka cioppino) may be as hazy as the city’s famous fog, but there is definitely something to the dish’s Italian-sounding name. Though no one can say for sure in what year the recipe was invented, the consensus is that it was created by the Italian fishermen who migrated to the area a century or so ago. They are said to have added their catch of the day to a tomato base to create this comforting staple, which is similar to a number of Mediterranean seafood dishes. Though the inclusion of seafood is the one constant of this recipe, the exact type varies from chef to chef, as do the seasonings and accompaniments. The popularity of San Francisco’s signature dish has spread far beyond the city’s borders, with a variety of versions being ladled out at restaurants across the country.

Photography courtesy of Gather

Handline, Sebastopol, California

The California coast is a major inspiration behind the dishes dreamed up at this fast-casual spot, so it’s no wonder that cioppino is a menu mainstay. Even the dish’s name, The Pier 45, pays homage to San Francisco. Many of its ingredients are locally sourced, such as the vegetables from Handline’s own farm in Sebastopol that Chef Natalie Goble combines with fish bones to make the stock base. The stew’s fish and shellfish are also plucked from nearby waters, as this cioppino comes packed with Bodega Bay’s rockfish and Dungeness crab (when in season), cove mussels and clams, and Monterey calamari.

Photography courtesy of Dawn Heumann

Go to: Handline

Jack Dusty, Sarasota, Florida

This chic yet casual spot serves modern coastal cuisine and signature cocktails in an airy dining room with waterfront views. A menu mainstay since the day the restaurant opened, the Sarasota Cioppino is rife with regional ingredients, as it contains both fish and shrimp pulled straight from the Gulf. Bay scallops, middleneck clams and mussels add to the ocean-tinged flavor of this bright dish, whose tomato broth is flavored with orange peel. Hefty slices of grilled baguette come heaped on top of the bowl.

Photography courtesy of Jack Dusty

Go to: Jack Dusty

Americano, Dallas

At this hip Dallas spot, the dishes are as vibrant as the splashes of color in the dining room inspired by Italian cinema from the 1960s. Executive Chef Matt Ford has created a menu awash in Italian-American classics. For his take on cioppino, Chef Ford brings together rock shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico with swordfish, mussels, squid, clams, tomato and fennel. The dish is garnished with salsa verde, and in traditional San Francisco style, it’s accompanied by housemade sourdough.

Photography courtesy of Americano

Go to: Americano

Daddy Jack’s, Dallas

Styled after New England chowder houses, this Dallas restaurant focuses on fresh seafood, so you can bet that its cioppino is absolutely brimming with the ocean’s bounty. Daddy Jack’s take on the classic dish was actually designed to use as many different kinds of seafood as possible. Hence, a luscious base composed of homemade lobster stock, saffron and tomatoes comes loaded with Maine lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops. The dish is served with garlic toast, which is ideal for sopping up every last drop.

Photography courtesy of Daddy Jack's

Go to: Daddy Jack's

Gather, Yarmouth, Maine

At this neighborhood cafe, Chef Colin Kelly turns out a flavorful take on cioppino that was taught to him by his mentor, a native Italian. Served as a starter, Chef Kelly’s version is strong on the garlic and crushed red peppers. The stew comes studded with clams, shrimp and local mussels, as well as fish caught in nearby Casco Bay (Gather’s team places a priority on using regionally sourced ingredients). To add richness, Chef Kelly adds a little butter at the end and switches out the standard croutons for a stepped-up topping of fried focaccia crostini.

Photography courtesy of Gather

Go to: Gather

Via Uno, Half Moon Bay, California

Southern Italian favorites and Neapolitan-style pizza may dominate the menu at Via Uno, but cioppino makes a much-anticipated appearance every year during crab season (typically from November through the spring). This Italian restaurant interprets cioppino as a mixed fish soup brimming with Alaskan king crab, tiger prawns, Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels, Monterey calamari and wild salmon in a light spicy tomato sauce. Toasted bread completes the dish.

Photography courtesy of Via Uno

Go to: Via Uno

Market Restaurant + Bar, Del Mar, California

Fresh, locally sourced ingredients dictate much of the menu at Market Restaurant + Bar, where diners feast on seasonal finds dreamed up by Executive Chef-Owner Carl Schroeder and his team. One such specialty is the cioppino, which the restaurant offers in the fall. In addition to lobster, scallops and rockfish, this version includes braised artichoke hearts. And in lieu of the typical pasta that accompanies some standard cioppino recipes, this version gets paired with herb potato gnocchi.

Photography courtesy of Market Restaurant + Bar

Go to: Market Restaurant + Bar

Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay, California

Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay serves cioppino with cracked Dungeness crab, prawns, mussels, clams and rockfish. The sauce, which is flavored with fennel and pasilla pepper, has just a bit of zing. Sam's offers two different options for this dish, which continues to be one of the restaurant's most-popular menu items. You can get the cioppino served classically or “lazy style” (with the shells removed). When Dungeness crab is unavailable, lump blue crab is swapped in as a substitute.

Photography courtesy of Sam's Chowder House

Go to: Sam’s Chowder House

Kincaid Grill, Anchorage, Alaska

Seafood selections crowd the menu at this New American restaurant in Anchorage. Opt for the Alaskan Cioppino and you'll be served a steaming bowl chock-full of the same Pacific Coast seafood that can be found along the shores of San Francisco. The dish sings with the flavors of the sea, as it brings together mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops and fin fish in a light tomato fume. A thick slice of grilled rustic bread is the ideal accompaniment to this hearty take on the classic cioppino.

Photography courtesy of Kincaid Grill

Go to: Kincaid Grill

Rapscallion, Reno, Nevada

Modeled after the elegant seafood houses built in San Francisco in a bygone era, Rapscallion features dark wood, brass accents and plenty of fresh catches. Though the menu is swimming with a multitude of seafood options, the Wharf Style Cioppino continues to stand out. Served seasonally in the fall, this popular dish brings together perfectly poached clams, mussels, crab, shrimp and scallops. Instead of being dunked in a bowl of broth, this seafood medley is combined with chunks of tender peppers and tomatoes in a sauce tinged with horseradish. It’s served with toasted garlic bread perfect for soaking up all that succulent juice.

Go to: Rapscallion

Sotto Sopra, Baltimore

Executive chef and owner Riccardo Bosio started Sotto Sopra more than 20 years ago in Baltimore’s historic and arts district, Mount Vernon. Since that first day he opened the doors for his diners, Chef Bosio has been turning out dishes that deliver a taste of his home country. Born in Bergamo, Italy, he definitely sees the similarities between cioppino and the seafood stews served in his native land. With the "abbondanza of seafood in Maryland," as Chef Bosio puts it, cioppino seemed like a natural fit for his menu. His recipe features lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, salmon and striped bass when in season. This hearty stew comes served with Tuscan bread, naturally.

Photography courtesy of Sotto Sopra

Go to: Sotto Sopra

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