Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish's place of origin is typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread, either sourdough or baguette. The dish is comparable to cacciucco and brodetto from Italy, as well as other fish dishes from the Mediterranean region such as bouillabaisse, burrida, and bourride of the French Provence, suquet de peix from Catalan speaking regions of coastal Spain.
Cioppino was developed in the late 1800s by Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco, many from Genoa, Italy. Originally it was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning "to chop" or "chopped" which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day's catch. Ciuppin is also a classic soup of Genoa, similar in flavor to cioppino, with less tomato, and the seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart. At least one restaurant in San Francisco, the eponymous Cioppino's, describes an apocryphal story in which the name derived from the heavily Italian-accented cry of the wharf cooks for the fishermen to "chip in" some of their catch to the collective soup pot.
Generally the seafood is cooked in broth and served in the shell, including the crab (if any) that is often served halved or quartered. It therefore requires special utensils, typically a crab fork and cracker. Depending on the restaurant, it may be accompanied by a bib to prevent food stains on clothing, which is also sometimes encouraged by restaurants for patrons to use as a sign to attract attention to the restaurant's food, second possibly damp napkin, or a second bowl for the shells. As a variation, the "lazy man's" cioppino is served with seafood shelled and crab legs cracked.
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