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 days 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".
Isnt it pronounced chuh - PEE noh? Actually one of the restaurants at Fishermans 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 lets 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 Tadichs Grill. In fact, one online definition of cioppino includes a reference to Tadich.
Looking on Chowhound to see if this has been discussed (it hasnt), 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 havent 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 Ive had Cioppino twice (not at Tadichs 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 havent 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 dont think I would even tackle heating up Trader Joes frozen cioppino).
So when you say you had great cioppino, what do you mean?