Who is the Cioppino King?

What kind of girl wakes up in the morning dreaming of an Italian fish stew? Me, Carina, an Uncouth Gourmand 4 lyfe and the one without a seafood allergy. I was craving it and  I decided to ask my fellow Twits for the best bowl in LA. As the old adage goes, ask and you shall receive. I received a response from the top dog himself. The god of all foodies in LA, Mr. Jonathan Gold. Here is what he had to say:

High end, Admiral Risty; maybe better, the back room at Fish King in Glendale. RT @uncouthgourmand Where can I get a good cioppino in LA?

I was on cloud nine and invited a foodie that I used to date who I know loves Fish King to join me for a bowl. Like a real lady, I invited him via email and he responded saying:

I’ll gladly, and with much pleasure join you for some Cioppino. Now if you’re feeling really brave, you could always try the Fish King version and then when/if you go up home for the holidays, you can go to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing and compare the two Cioppinos.

Well we planned on grabbing cioppino two days before Thanksgiving and it just so happens that the day after I was heading to my hometown of Santa Cruz. Phil’s Fish Market is maybe 20 minutes from my childhood home and has the cioppino that I have compared all other cioppinos to. How dare this gentleman plant this idea in my head. How could I walk in to Fish King with anything but ultra high expectation? I had the snapper sandwich and the bowl of cioppino. The cioppino was very inexpensive under $8 and the biggest surprise was it came with rice inside. I had never seen that but it added a nice touch. It was good and a very decent value but it became clear that the Fish King was not the Cioppino King.

I constantly end up either at the airport or on the road on the busiest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving, and am always surprised there are so many people out. As I was getting in to Monterey, the 101 was at a halt and I decided to get on another freeway, the 183, which brings you right in front of Phil’s Fish Market. I called my mom and asked her if I should pick up dinner from Phil’s. She got very excited and had fettuccine alfredo with shrimp on the brain. I knew I  needed a bowl of cioppino. I walked in to the place where my grandma and her roommate/possible lover used to always take me as a child. In fact, he loved it there so much that his ashes are scattered in the water at Moss Landing. It felt like home. I talked to the guy at the fish counter and he put me in a special take-out line that upset the 30 people in the line and I ordered cioppino for one. To be honest, I never even knew that was an option. I have always had the family one that serves 4 people and costs $75. The bowl for one is a lot of food but is still rather expensive at $19.

I rushed home and when I arrived my mom tried to re-serve everything and put it in ceramic bowls. I ordered her not to and kept it in the styrofoam proclaiming that I am an Uncouth Gourmand. She rolled her eyes. My 8-year-old brother was very interested in my cioppino. He ate clams and mussels for the first time even after I tried to discourage him, telling him that he wouldn’t like them. When he tried it, loved it, and picked it all out of my soup along with shrimp and squid, I needed a plan b. I then passed him pieces of crab, which he had to open himself and got a good 10 minutes of alone time with my stew. I wish I was better at sharing but I was an only child for the first 15 years of my life and this cioppino is just so amazing!

Alright to prove that I have manners: a big thank you to Jonathan Gold for showing me a local cioppino joint and to my dining companion for reminding me of my cioppino roots. Also, I want to apologize for the poor photo quality but I am uncouth and eat soup out of take-out bowls and have a cheap camera. Alright, feel free to offer any other cioppino suggestions. For now, Phil will remain my Cioppino King!



  1. To get a good Italian Seafood Stew, Ya Gotta’ go where they understand that fennel is a love drug, like its sister, licorice….

    Armstrong’s, in Avalon, on Catalina Island. Cioppino IS NOT on the menu. They keep a cauldron of it going during the week for the staff and locals. It’s usually best on Mondays, when they throw in the swordfish, lobster and all the shell fish not served Saturday ond Sunday. Availability depends on your audacity and just how good of a beggar you can be. Price varies whether you are an Islander, Family or from the mainland. Say Bob Kennedy referred you. He’s the Mayor and runs a scuba diving operation. Lie like a dog!

    Portions are huge, so plan a light dinner. Don’t go back on the ocean that afternoon. You should have a durable, flexible and reliable sex partner with you for afternoon delight!! Mangia!!!

  2. What a great trip! And that cioppino looks really good! I came across your site from the foodieblogroll and I’d love to guide our readers to your site if you won’t mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it’s all set, Thanks!

  3. […] Manresa, in Los Gatos for perhaps the best meal of my life. While I prefer the seafood from Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, this was my mom’s choice and it was a good one. This is a family restaurant […]

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