The Story of Cioppino
Many people claim the name “Cioppino” comes from the Italian word cuppin, meaning little soup. A more entertaining story as to the derivation of the name is that a common call along San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf was “chip-in,” allegedly a call for San Francisco’s mainly Italian immigrant fisherman coming home with their daily catch to donate a small portion of their catch for a communal fish stew prepared on the docks. Anything would do and the meal would be shared among the fisherman who would talk about the day’s catch and dunk San Francisco Sour Dough bread into the rich broth. Eventually the broken English cries of chip-in turned into “chip-in-O,” which ultimately became “Cioppino.”
Cioppino is an Italian American classic. While many people believe the dish originated in Italy, it actually originated in San Francisco and was made famous in the 1850s by Genoese immigrant Giuseppe Bazzuro and his abandoned ship turned Italian restaurant bearing his name. Originally, the dish was a purée of cooked vegetables and leftover fish scraps.
Over the years, Cioppino has transformed into a luscious stew using local delectable shell fish such as Dungeness crab, briny prawns, and sweet small shrimp, along with heaps of clams, mussels, and chunks of flaky fish. All of this is simmered with lots of tomatoes and wine. Although you won’t find the same dish in Italy, it is similar to many shellfish soups found along the Mediterranean coast, such as cacciucco, brodetto and bouillabaisse to name a few.