Cioppino: San Francisco’s Famous Fish Stew

Seafood StewCioppino is a fish and shellfish stew originating in San Francisco and made primarily with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, fish, tomatoes, and either red or white wine. The word Cioppino, (chee-o-pino) comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect spoken in Genoa meaning, “chopped”. The stew was developed in the late 1800’s by the Italian fishermen that settled in the North Beach Neighborhood of San Francisco. It was originally made on fishing boats while out at sea. It was not long before the stew began gaining popularity at seaside restaurants and later with people outside of the Italian community. Cioppino is similar to many shellfish soups like cacciucco, brodetto, and bouillabaisse.

The seafood is cooked in a rich broth and served in the shell, including the crab, which can be served halved or quartered. A crab fork and cracker are required to enjoy this hearty stew. The stew is brought to the table in the pot it was cooked in and is accompanied by slabs of sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled. Cioppino can be messy to eat, especially with the shells still on the crab, so plenty of napkins are necessary when enjoying this dish.

san-franThere are many ways to prepare Cioppino and they are all fairly easy and can be ready in about an hour! Everything is cooked in one pot. The three main ingredients are shellfish, or whatever seafood you happen to have, tomatoes, and red or white wine. The first step after gathering your ingredients is to cook the broth. For this, you will need to add tomatoes, wine, and whatever you’d like to add for flavor. For example, you can add garlic, red pepper flakes, or even ginger. Finally, add the seafood and let it simmer in the broth until it is ready. When you need to prepare dinner for friends and family in a pinch, a hearty Cioppino is guaranteed to make everyone happy.

Common seafood used in cioppino:

  • Dungeness Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • White Fish
  • Scallops
  • Mussels
  • Squid


Links to recipes:

Fulton Fish Market Cioppino with Sourdough Croutons

San Francisco Cioppino

Phil’s Fish Market Cioppino

100 Years of History

1913 Madison Packing Co. 307-308 W. Johnson St.

In 1913, Oswald and Anna Neesvig founded Madison Packing Company, which produced sausage and smoked meat products. By the late 1920’s the company had outgrown the local farm supply and began procuring fresh meats from Chicago’s Fulton Street Market.

Madison Packing Company, 1926.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Neesvigs was located in downtown Madison, on Johnson Street. The truck docks were at the back of the building, off Dayton Street. Though the business occupied three floors, including smokehouses on the top floor, the workforce numbered only nine employees. In the early 1950’s, Neesvig’s made the transition into full line fresh red meats. As was typical of the industry at the time, beef halves and quarters were purchased and brought into the building on hanging rails. In the 1960’s we placed our emphasis in portion control and in 1968 the sausage product was phased out, with complete concentration on fresh red meat.

Ted Neesvig 1955

Neesvig’s Production 1970’s

By 1973, the old plant was inadequate to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding business and plans were made to build a new facility. The facility was located at 417 Atlas Avenue in Madison, WI. In 1976, Neesvig’s became a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected plant, providing the company with the ability to expand sales out of state. Since then the company has experienced numerous changes. Also, a new way of selling beef appeared. It was the beginning of boxed beef marketing. Neesvig’s became one of the first companies in the country to eliminate rails for handling beef. With the specialization of portion controlled cuts, the company was helping customers realize the benefit of purchasing not by the pound, but rather by the individual portion. This removed the need for customers to employ a trained meat cutter, thus eliminating the cutting and trimming, and increased there profits.

The year 1979 marked the beginning of sales to the gift and mail order industry, currently supplying product and drop ship services to many of the top names in the national food mail-order field.

Neesvigs was accepted for designation as Total Quality Control (TQC) for the USDA in 1983, hence establishing a “grade labeling” program for the furthest assurance of quality to our customers. In 1985, Neesvig’s became Wisconsin’s first Certified Angus Beef ® distributor.

In 1994, Neesvig’s expanded it’s product line to include fresh fish. The success of this program led to the 1995 purchase, with related parties, of Empire Fish Company with which we have a sister company relationship. The Milwaukee based Empire Fish Company, also founded in 1913, is Wisconsin’s oldest and finest provider of fresh fish to the food service industry.

Neesvig’s Windsor Building 1990’s

In 1999, growth in all facets of the business enabled our move to a new state-of-the-art processing and distribution facility located in Windsor, WI. Neesvig’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) program was also fully implemented. This facility still serves as our main operating facility today.

Neesvig’s continued its relationship with the Certified Angus Beef® program and sold 9.8 million pounds of Certified Angus Beef® product from 2004 to 2007. Neesvig’s national ranking of 12th out of 110 distributors was the highest ranking for any independent meat company for that year.

Fulfillment Facility 2014

Fulfillment Facility 2014

Recently we have developed a line of all-natural beef, pork, and poultry products and established a line of grass fed beef. We have also expanded our production room to provide more capacity to produce for our customers. In 2012, we purchased a 126,000 square foot building in DeForest, WI for our fulfillment division. We also expanded the distribution of our products to restaurants and institutions in Minnesota and Iowa to go along with our routes in Wisconsin and Illinois. Our expansion and investment in technologies have allowed us to create an even closer relationship with our sister company, Empire Fish Company.