Today, I found some words about Cioppino.
This was my favorite dish growing up. Thanksgivings in northern Californian Italian American households often featured a great crab cioppino instead of a turkey; or if both were served, the turkey would remain largely untouched for Friday sandwiches while pot after pot of cioppino were consumed.
Cioppino is said to have been created at Alioto’s restaurant on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. It may have started there, but they do not make the best cioppino.
Needless to say, my mother made the best cioppino I have ever tasted. An Italian American fisherman’s stew, similar to a bouillabaisse, it features a HOMEMADE tomato sauce, white fish, clams, shrimp, and crab, lots and lots of dungeness crab. Cioppino without dungeness crab is not cioppino, just a fisherman’s stew.
On my mom’s passing I recreated my mom’s recipe (a family secret), but I ran into Guy Fieri who shared a recipe with a huge licorice twist, using lots of anise.
This is a dish that can have as many different recipes as cooks, and all are good, many great.
The best restaurant cioppino I have ever had was at Fontana’s in Cupertino on Steven’s Creek Blvd. Perfect meal at Fontana’s: ceasar salad (I know it is not Italian), gnocchi al pesto, and cioppino; served with a bottle of Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale, Gold Label. Hint, unbutton your top pant button when sitting down, that’s a lot of food.
Those are the words of John Cesano.
I like his ideas about Cioppino. I got around to having this dish in San Francisco because Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, did a segment of one of his cooking shows from Little Joe's. That was when Little Joe's was in North Beach. They have moved and are now on 5th Street. The review I read said the food was the same quality, but the ambiance was quieter. I'm mentally debating whether that's an improvement or not.