Like most local San Franciscans, I usually avoid Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf area for most types of dining excursions. In fact, the couple of times I’ve eaten somewhere there, it’s usually because someone is in town visiting and wants to eat “seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf.” Generally speaking, the food hasn’t been bad. It just hasn’t been great, and it is usually more expensive than it deserves to be. However, it’s not that I dislike eating over there. It’s just so crowded and during the summer, its absolutely filled with poor unknowing tourists who have no idea what a summer in San Francisco is all about so it can be somewhat of an annoyance. Therefore, I was more than a little a surprised when Pdho’s friends, PalPal, fellow local San Franciscans wanted to meet up for dinner at Cioppino’s, smack dab in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf.
The restaurant ended up being pretty crowded, but we got seated relatively quickly. The menu looked pretty appetizing. In addition to the typical Italian dishes like pizzas and pastas, they also had some sandwiches and salads. So although it seemed like the menu tries to offer the taste of Italy, it is simultaneously catering to tourists.
I ordered the Seafood Risotto which included scallops, jumbo prawns, and mussels. According to the menu, the seafood was steamed in a reduced shellfish stock, then tossed with risotto milanese and garnished with chopped tomatoes and scallions. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty good! I really didn’t expect the food to be very good, but this risotto was pretty darn good. The seafood and rice were well-cooked, not the slightest bit overcooked or gummy, respectively. Definitely better than some other restaurants that claim to be more authentic.
The signature dish, the cioppino was a seafood extravaganza of dungeness crab, clams, mussels, snapper, calamari, shrimp, and tomatoes braised in a fennel scented stew. It was equally delightful in large part due to the cornucopia of different shellfish and fish, but I found the the rich tomato broth to be complex yet hugely flavorful.
The meal definitely exceeded my expectations which may not be that fair, because I don’t think I went in thinking I was going to get my socks knocked off anyways. Nevetheless, location aside, the food is pretty solid and definitely a strong contender especially if anyone ever finds themselves in Fisherman’s Wharf, under-dressed and hungry, in the middle of July and wanting to a good meal inside a warm restaurant.
400 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
PAFO Ratings for Cioppino’s:
Price 2½ stars
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars