Cioppino Seafood Stew

Ina Garten’s authentic Cioppino is outrageously good and truthfully, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Cioppino, a classic tomato-based seafood stew loaded with shrimp, cod, mussels, scallops, and clams, is a healthy stew (or soup) that’s surprisingly easy to whip up in just about an hour. San Francisco is where Cioppino was invented way back in the 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen would share the day’s catch with other fishermen who came home empty-handed. This famous soup was also commonly cooked on boats while out at sea, as well as in fisherman’s homes long before it made its way to restaurants along the famous San Francisco wharf.


Nunzio and Rose Alioto

The first restaurant that helped make Cioppino famous was Aliotos. In 1925 Nunzio Alioto, an Italian immigrant, set up a stall at #8 Fisherman’s Wharf to sell lunchtime snacks to the Italian workers. His business quickly grew, and by 1932 he had constructed the first building at the historic corner of Taylor and Jefferson, by combining the fish stand with a seafood bar specializing in shrimp cocktails and steamed fresh crab. Nunzio passed away unexpectedly and “Nonna” Rose, his widow, and her three children began running the stand. In doing so, Rose became the first woman to work on the wharf. By 1938 she had installed a kitchen in the original structure and officially opened Alioto’s Restaurant.

It’s been said that Rose used to put a bib around her son before eating Cioppino and say, “if it doesn’t splatter on your shirt, you aren’t doing it right.” Nothing could be further from the truth, this irresistible seafood stew is notorious for splattering while you eat it and mop up all its delicious broth. It’s a risk worth taking, if you ask me.


Cioppino vs. Bouillabaisse

Other cultures have a version of Cioppino, including Italy’s neighbor, France, where their “fisherman’s stew” is known as bouillabaisse. Cioppino is Italian in nature with a purely tomato-based broth, whereas bouillabaisse is French, and has the addition of saffron to its fish stock-based broth with chopped tomatoes added in.

This unfussy stew is a wonderful soup for seafood lovers and a great go-to year-round, but especially during these long winter days. For Californians, many of us who are enduring extreme weather, in the form of either atmospheric rivers or intense snow fall, Cioppino may just be a welcome comfort food to warm you up and calm down those nerves. Although making Cioppino may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually rather simple and Garten breaks it down perfectly. And the truth is, if it could be made on ships and wharfs at one time, I’m willing to be you can master it in your modern-day kitchen.
About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

2 thoughts on "Cioppino Seafood Stew"

  1. I made this last night and it was very authentic and filling! Got rave reviews from the family! Thank you for the recipe!

    1. So lovely to hear this. Thank you for reaching out and for reading my blog! Keep on cooking.

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