Best Seafood Stew in Sarasota

7 Jul

We found the best seafood stew in Sarasota in a pretty unlikely place.

I had lunch today at Whole Foods Market downtown. Great store with a ton of gourmet choices for lunch. The salad bar is amazing and they always have a good selection of soups. I couldn’t resist trying the Cioppino, a tomato-based fish stew that has long been a popular dish in the San Francisco Bay area. Boy, I’m glad I gave it a shot because it is fantastic — chock full of clams, fish, and shrimp. A 16 oz. container of the dish costs a reasonable $4.99 and I added a small piece of sourdough bread for just 65 cents. Made for a really nice lunch.

As you all know by now, I am pretty slow to pass out major superlatives when it comes to food. However, I must say this could be the best seafood stew in the Sarasota area and perhaps the best seafood dish of any kind that I have enjoyed since my arrival back in November ’07. If you have a Whole Foods Market in your neighborhood, I would strongly urge you to give their cioppino a try. I believe it will quickly become a mainstay in your weekly diet. It’s healthy, loaded with fresh seafood, and affordable too. That’s a true trifecta! 

Learn more about cioppino below — and make some with the provided recipe.   

Cioppino is a fish stew derived from the various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish’s place of origin is typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, often served over spaghetti or other long pasta and toasted buttered bread, either sourdough or baguette. The dish is comparable to bouillabaisse, burrida, and bourride of the French Provence, and to cacciucco and brodetto from Italy .[1]

It was developed in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco.[2] Originally it was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, which described the local fish stew.[1] At least one restaurant in San Francisco, the eponymous Cioppino’s, describes[3]an apocryphal story[2] in which the name derived from the heavily Italian-accented cry of the wharf cooks for the fishermen to “chip in” some of their catch to the collective soup pot.


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups diced green bell pepper
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 1/4 pounds white fish fillets, cut into1-inch cubes
  • 1 8-ounce carton of lump crab meat
  • 1/3 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 pound littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ground pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, bell pepper and fennel until onions are translucent. Add wine, tomatoes, water and oregano. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 25 minutes. Stir in fish and crab and simmer 5 minutes. Add shrimp, clams and basil and simmer 5 minutes longer.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

More great healthy recipes can be found at

Many folks say the best cioppino in NoCal comes from Phil’s Fish Market. In the video clip above, Phil reveals some tips for making an authentic Italian cioppino — a longtime Montery Bay treat! If you’re lazy, order some online at

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