Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chip In to My Stomach! Cioppino's on the Wharf

Before I left San Francisco, I made it my goal to savor every second I had left in the City.

Thus, I spent several afternoons laying in Golden Gate Park, gazing longingly at the full-bodied cumulus humilis cloud formations in the pristine sky. . .

I rode the MUNI bus line across San Francisco, peacefully listening to the soft humming, buzzing, sputtering, and zipping noises common to the electrified MUNI buses. . .

And I visited the place where most journeys to San Francisco begin, Fisherman's Wharf. My goal there was to enjoy two foods that epitomize the bounty of San Francisco's waters: (1) cioppino (pronounced "chip-ee-no" or "chuh-pee-no") and (2) clam chowder.

Cioppino is a hearty fish stew that originated in San Francisco. Legend has it, that after a tiring morning in the rough waters of the bay, the fisherman gathered their catch and congregated on their fishing boats to eat lunch with one another. Each fisherman contributed or "chipped in" their "catch" for the shared meal, be it fish, crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, or other delicious morsels from the sea. The ingredients would be combined and cooked in a communal pot, with wine, tomato sauce, and a smattering of different herbs and seasonings. As the dish evolved, so did the name, and the Italiano-fied pronunciation of "chip in" became the fish stew, "cioppino."

Usually, the seafood in cioppino is served in its unadulterated glory, meaning, it is served with shells and everything. Therefore, an authentic cioppino will be served with a disposable bib, mallets, crab crackers, metal picks, and a wet-nap. Cioppino is generally cooked in a thin (very liquid) fennel-infused tomato soup diluted with white wine, so expect a significant amount of messy splattering during your eager consumption.

In San Francisco, you will find a dozen or so restaurants with Cioppino in their names, and although I haven't tried all of them, I believe if they serve cioppino, they have to be good. If you order the cioppino at Cioppino's on the Wharf, expect a bountiful seafood extravaganza of braised dungeness crab, clams, mussels, rock cod, calamari, and shrimp in a steaming fennel and tomato stew.

And now to San Francisco's ubiquitous clam chowder. Although San Francisco serves "New England" clam chowder, the one thing makes the thick calorie-laden cream soup distinctly San Franciscan is that it is served in a crusty and chewy sourdough bread bowl. You can't get that in New England! Okay, my friends and I didn't get the bread bowl for the clam chowder we ordered at
Cioppino's on the Wharf (as shown in this picture), but you know what I mean.

If you are in the tourist-infested Fisherman's Wharf, I encourage you to stop by the tourist magnet
Cioppino's on the Wharf, to try two of my favorite San Francisco seafood dishes.


  1. Gotta love SF! With this wintry weather, a bowl of hearty soup sounds wonderful.

  2. I had no idea "cioppino" is derived from "chip in". That's cool! I was fortunate enough to get cioppino at a restaurant in SF once, overlooking the harbor, I believe in Ghirrardeli (sp) Square, and it was delicious.

  3. Had Cioppino in 1976 in SF. Delicious! And I love clam chowder there too!

  4. PE, you really knew how to say goodbye to San Francisco in style! Plus your posts are always a good reminder for me here in the Bay Area to get and get me a big bowl of cioppino. Thanks for the reminder not to take it for granted! :)

  5. Hello amazing people, e.g. Taste Tester, Elmo Monster, Melinda, and Chef Ben! I am so glad to hear of your wonderful cioppino experiences. We'll have to dine together some day and each "chip in" our dishes to share with one another!

  6. mmmm....that looks so hearty and warming right now. i'm freezing.

  7. I made this Christmas eve.... although it looked just exactly like the one pictured at www.pagliucasrestaurant.com in Boston.

    Now I'm hungry for it again!

    Skip the cherrystones, they get tough.

  8. I wish I could get the recipe for this Cioppino............ My family and I live in San Diego and I love going to restraints and then trying to recreate the amazing dish I had.

    Thank You Jessica

    1. Oh do you like doing that ....... aren't you something...

  9. love this! so great! I am so happy that I found your blog. Thanks for performing a public service!!


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