Not sure what cioppino is? Ask anyone in San Francisco, and they’ll tell you about the seafood dish that originated in the bay on nineteenth-century Italian fishing boats, where leftover catch was tossed into a pot with tomato sauce and wine. Eventually, the fish stew made it to land and became famous in the restaurants along the San Francisco wharf. But not all cioppino is made exactly the same, so here are the places in San Francisco that do it differently, but undoubtedly well.
Of course, you have to start at the beginning, which is why Alioto’s is at the top of the must-try San Francisco cioppino spots. It is the self-appointed original cioppino restaurant, taking the seafood stew classic from the bay’s fishing boats to the kitchens on dry land in 1938. Located right on Fisherman’s Wharf, Alioto’s offers more than a world-class cioppino – which features crab instead of the typical fish, along with manila clams, mussels, and prawns – it also has some of the best views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge that San Francisco has to offer thanks to a three-tiered dining room with expansive windows.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
Tucked inside the Ferry Building, this seafood spot serves up local shellfish raised at their very own California marine farm. Along with the restaurant and farming business, every Saturday morning, they are vendors in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. Showing true commitment to its mission of sustainable food, Hog Island Co. is a unique experience and its restaurant location in San Francisco does not disappoint: Their version of cioppino features fresh rock cod, squid, clams, shrimp, and mussels soaked in a deliciously spicy broth spiked with Calabrian chilies.
What started as a coffee shop in 1965 for the fishermen of Pier 47 became a family restaurant that buys fresh seafood daily from those same fishermen and serves it in Italian classics along with specialty barrel-aged cocktails made with organic fruit and herbs. Serving what they call the “Lazy Man’s Cioppino,” Scoma’s cuts out all the work of the traditional stew for you, taking the shells off the crab, shrimp, sea scallops, clams, and mussels.
Fog Harbor Fish House
This Pier 39 seafood institution is known for two things: award-winning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz through its wall-to-wall windows and 100-percent fresh, sustainable seafood which includes Pacific sole, cod, tuna, lobster, and Dungeness crab. The star of their house specialties, however, is their cioppino, stuffed with both crab and fresh fish, in addition to the typical shrimp, clams, scallops, and mussels in a tomato-herb broth.
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