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Cioppino: Fish Stew

Cioppino, San Francisco's tomato-based seafood stew, can be had at restaurants in the city, as well as in the towns of Tiburon, Pescadero, and Marshall.

Cioppino at Tony's Seafood, Marshall, Calif., image
Photo caption
Diners relish Tony's shellfish-laden cioppino in Marshall, Calif.

Cioppino—San Francisco's lusty, garlicky, tomato-based seafood stew—comes in so many versions that you'll probably never eat the same one twice. A descendant of the Genoese soup ciuppin (the recipe was probably brought to California in the 1800s by Italian fishing families), cioppino varies by season and by cook.

At Duarte's Tavern (650-879-0464), a roadhouse in Pescadero, Calif., you get a delicious light broth filled with crab claws, while the cioppino at San Francisco's wonderful Old Clam House (415-826-4880) arrives loaded with everything from squid to baby shrimp. Sam's Anchor Cafe (415-435-4527) in Tiburon, Calif., with gorgeous bay views, puts salmon (in season) in its cioppino, a dish that always tastes better by the sea. You can spend a fine afternoon savoring the fish stew at Tony's Seafood (415-663-1107), a cozy café in Marshall, Calif., that overlooks Tomales Bay.

It's hard to find a bad cioppino, but few rise above the level of tasty, hearty, catchall soup. The breathtaking exception is the rich, russet concoction at San Francisco's Tadich Grill (415-391-1849). There are many reasons Tadich's has lasted 155 years, and its perfect cioppino—a luxurious bowl of pillowy scallops, shrimp, clams, crab, and meaty hunks of fresh fish—has got to be one of them.

Photography by Terrence McCarthy

This article was first published in November 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.