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Feb 26, 2005 11:14 PM

There must be 20 ways to have your Cioppino (Chip In O)

  • k

Searching the web, it seems that Italian fishermen in San Francisco came up with a local fish stew based on a version from Genoa called ciuppin (‘little soup' or 'leftover soup').

However, my favorite story of the origin is in the link below which says that fisherman returning from a day’s catch would get together and “chip in” parts of their catch for a communal fish soup. It goes on to say, and this makes me giggle every time I read it,

“Eventually the "broken" English cries of "chip in" turned into "chip-in-O". Hence the name "Cioppino".

Isn’t it pronounced “chuh - PEE – noh”? Actually one of the restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf also has that story on its website, which leads me to believe it is a fabrication. The food time line linked below has a more realistic version of the origin.

After more than, well let’s say, a decade in San Francisco, I had my first Cioppino.

Reading thru the SF boards, it seems the overwhelming consensus is that the place to have Cioppino is at Tadich’s Grill. In fact, one online definition of cioppino includes a reference to Tadich.

Looking on Chowhound to see if this has been discussed (it hasn’t), no matter where you are in the country, posters always say that XXX restaurant has great Cioppino. No one ever says why it is great.

The obvious, to me, is that a great Cioppino has super fresh seafood. However, after that what?

There seems to be two versions, one sauce based and the other broth based. Which do you prefer? Some say it is a fennel scented stew. I haven’t had that version yet.

Also, what is best to drink with Cioppino? White wine, red wine or beer?

What is the etiquette? Eat the crab legs first? Remove crab from leg and add to dish?

In the past two weeks I’ve had Cioppino twice (not at Tadich’s … next Friday). I preferred the lighter broth based version to the tomato sauce version which was too filling. Tasty, but I went into a food stupor for a day I was so filled. So far I like white wine better than red. I haven’t tried it with beer yet (next week … Anchor Steam).

So what are your thoughts? Any particular wine you would suggest?

And … to the Chowhound who found great Cioppino in Burlington, VT … right on.

This seemed to be a recipe for a good broth based version

Zuppa de Pesca

Chip-In-O The link also has 20 variations of the recipe.

The above links are only used to back up references in this post and to illustrate the different versions of cioppino. If you have a great recipe for cioppino, please start a thread on the home cooking board so that it can be appreciated by Chowhounds who love to cook (not me. I don’t think I would even tackle heating up Trader Joe’s frozen cioppino).

So when you say you had great cioppino, what do you mean?


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  1. You can have your cioppino, Krys. And mine too. To me, crab in the shell is enough of a pain in the butt. But crab in the shell submerged in a tomatoey broth? So they put a big paper bib on you and there's no way to eat cioppino without feeling silly....


    2 Replies
    1. re: Gary Soup
      Ellen Roberts

      Then you need "lazyperson's" cioppino when all the
      seafood has been shelled for you. The Villa in Santa Rosa used to have a great version for the lazy and I think a number of SF restaurants do as well

      1. re: Ellen Roberts

        The only problem with the "lazyperson's" version is that I think that shells give the stew an extra depth of flavor. It is the equivalent of make chicken soup with the bones of the chicken instead of just cubed up white and dark meat. That's sort of the reason I've been going with the messy version. I wanted to get the best flavor possible.

        It is a pain, but on the other hand it can be fun to be in a relatively nice restaurant and eating like a three year old. I guess you have to be in the mood for it. I have the feeling after my third sample of cioppino next week, that will be it for me ... but then again, there's Phil's ... I haven't been to Moss Landing in a while ...

    2. fwiw, i think you will find a version of cioppino in any of the fishing communites up and down the coast. Don't think you can pinpoint it to one location or restaurant.

      It probably goes back to the 1880's, waves of Italian immigrants chasing sardine, anchovy, tuna. Where i grew up, one of the local churches had a cookoff for years.

      I prefer a white, or beer.....

      1. Is there any major difference between Cioppino and Bouillabaisse, except the latter uses saffron?


        1 Reply
        1. re: Nghe

          Cioppino has a tomato based sauce and must include dungenness crab. Best when served with authentic SF Bay area (or Monterey Bay area) crusty sourdough.


        2. "Chip in" is an awfully dubious etymology since in the mid-1900s the immigrant fishermen wouldn't have been speaking English among themselves. This article talks about how the dish evolved in SF: