Cioppino is a tomato based, fish stew created by immigrant fishermen from Genoa Northern Italy, who came to the U.S. and settled in San Francisco. Food Historians (yes, there is such a job and I think I want it) can’t seem to pin point when Cioppino first arrived on the scene. There are conflicting records sighting the first appearance of this dish during as far back as the Gold Rush days of the late 1840’s, to as recently as the 1930’s. Regardless of when it was introduced to the US, the stew was most likely created on an actual fishing boat using whatever leftovers of the assorted daily catch there were, and any staples that were on hand (traditionally some canned tomatoes, wine, vegetables and bread.) This concoction would make a filling meal for the crew. The name most likely came from the word ciuppin, which means: “chopped” or “to chop” in the Ligurian dialect spoken in Genoa. The word describes the process of chopping many different ingredients into the pot. Eventually Cioppino made it off the boats and into the restaurants in the San Francisco bay area.
Now for the hard part, how do you pronounce it? Being of strong Italian heritage, one may assume I have some sort of Italian linguistic advantage, but my dear departed Italian immigrant grandparents would be very disappointed in my lack of natural ability to pronounce anything in their native tongue. Cioppino is one of my favorite dishes on the menu at Dug’s Dive, but for some reason it’s nearly impossible for me to remember how to say it. I look at the word and my mind says Chee-oh-peen-o every time. The correct pronunciation however is Cho-PEE-no, but for anyone not willing to risk it, ordering the “Fish Stew,” or even just opening up your menu, pointing to it, and saying, “I’ll have that!” works just as well. The Cioppino The Dive serves is chock full of seafood. We make it with fresh haddock, shrimp, mussels, and little neck clams all sautéed in a tomato, fennel, and garlic-based broth served over tender diced potatoes. (Oh, and naturally there’s a little wine in there too) This hearty and flavorful stew is served with crispy, buttery garlic toast points and corn on the cob. The fennel really gives this dish a uniquely light sweet flavor. It brings the broth to a whole new level. Believe me, once you finish with all that succulent seafood, you will be using those garlic toast points to soak up every bit of that delicious broth. You may have to even share with your jealous dining companion, but make sure they get their own bread.