A reader calls looking for a dish that seems Italian but is San Franciscan by birth: cioppino.
Cioppino is a fish stew similar to a burrida of Liguria, the northern coastal region of Italy with Genoa as its capital. Burrida uses a variety of seafood and shellfish in combination with onion and garlic. Genoese fishermen were among the early immigrants of San Francisco and they used the burrida method of preparation with commonly found Pacific fish. Later, Sicilian immigrants added red peppers and tomatoes.
Cioppino is similar to seafood stews found at restaurants located on or near harbors throughout the world. These stews include the Mediterranean-based French bouillabaisse and suquet de peix, popular in Barcelona and along the northeastern coast of Spain.
In San Francisco, a traditional cioppino is an intensely flavored broth filled with Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, red snapper, calamari, shrimp, and tomatoes served with sourdough toast points. The crab gives the San Francisco cioppino a distinctive flavor.
In Charlotte, Villa Antonio Ristorante (4707 South Blvd.; 14825 Ballantyne Village Way) serves cioppino with lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari and Atlantic salmon pieces in marinara and served over linguini. But they will make cioppino as a stew upon request. Georges Brasserie (4620 Piedmont Row Drive) has a saffron tomato broth base bouillabaisse with clams, shrimp, mussel, fin fish and a rouille sauce.
McCormick and Schmick's serves cioppino in San Francisco but not here: In its place is a lobster steamer with vegetables. Trader Joe's sells a popular frozen cioppino.
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