Everyone who cooks it has their own version of how to make this classic California fish stew.
Thursday, July 16, 1998
According to Tony and Fran DiGirolamo, cioppino got started up around the San Francisco Delta area. It started out on the houseboats up there, around the turn-of-the-century. There were lots of immigrants from Sicily, Spain, and Germany at the time. Everybody''s working the farms and fishing, and then they''d get together, and all ''chip in'' what they had. The way the Italians said it "chip--een" is how it got its name.
A home-grown dish like cioppino naturally lends itself to innovation. Here''s how some locals do it:
Phil DiGirolamo''s cioppino has taken on a life of its own. In fact, at Phil''s Fish Market and Eatery, his "Lazy Man''s Cioppino" is vacuum-packed, sold and shipped around the country. "I start with a good consistency tomato base, made with lots of onions and canned Roma tomatoes and tomato puree. I steam open clams and mussels in white wine, pesto and saffron. Then I use clam broth, and seven kinds of fish altogether. Rockfish, snapper, squid rings, cracked crab, shrimp--and I always undercook it just a little when customers are buying it to take home and re-heat. That way the fish doesn''t overcook."
When Tony DiGirolamo gets together with some of his friends from the Italian-American club and someone has brought in some fresh Alaskan salmon, he likes to use it along with potatoes. "It''s the same as we made it at Angelo''s, fish en brodo, only with salmon."
At Monterey''s Fish House and the Salinas Fish House, it''s dubbed ''Sicilian holiday pasta.'' "It''s how we always ate it during Christmas-time with our family," says Chef David DiGirolamo. This cioppino is served in a brothy tomato sauce over linguine.
Tutto Buono Chef Geralynn Spadaro makes her cioppino like she learned from cooking with her grandparents. "At that time, people really just used rockfish. There was always plenty of that. For the restaurant I''ve embellished it with lots of other seafood, but it''s still the same good, flavorful broth, always served with lots of good bread for dunking."