Cioppino at Spago. Photo: Anthony Mair

Five Bountiful Bowls

Casting a wide net to find the city’s most comforting fisherman’s stews.

From Provence’s bouillabaisse and Brazil’s moqueca to Croatia’s brodet, the world’s seafood stews are steeped in tradition and are as varied as the fish in the sea. During the day, fishermen would sell their best catch and then use whatever was left over to make a hearty and flavorful stew just before bedding down on a chilly winter’s night. In Livorno, Italy, tradition dictates that at least five different types of fish be used—one for each “c” in the word cacciucco, which means “mixture.” Cioppino, considered San Francisco’s signature dish, is a tomato-based stew that usually includes Dungeness crab from the cool waters of the San Francisco Bay. Despite being 150 miles (as the crow flies) from the Pacific, we’ve reeled in some of the best seafood stews on the Strip, with wine to pair. And if you didn’t think red wine goes with fish, think again. These selections go well with seafood because of their low tannins.

Cioppino, Spago

Served in a large earthenware bowl, executive chef Mark Andelbradt’s lunchtime cioppino is made from a fragrant fumet, a concentrated stock of fish bones, roasted tomatoes and other savories. When mingled together with potatoes, calamari, mussels, prawns and clams, it’s a complete meal in every bite. A huge fan of crusty bread, namely the end pieces, Andelbradt serves his cioppino with housemade French loaf topped with a generous amount of smoked paprika aioli with which to soak up every last bit of broth. $27, in the Forum Shops at Caesars, Pair with 2012 Philippe Colin “La Maltroie,” Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, $15 glass, $60 bottle.

Ahnisto, Estiatorio Milos 

Estiatorio Milos’ ahnisto is a stew made with sideritis, a rare Greek white wine varietal, fresh basil, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes and the fish of your choice. Scorpena (scorpion fish) is recommended for its luxurious texture, which is akin to a cross between lobster and whitefish. The whole scorpena is steamed with all the ingredients for approximately an hour until it is infused with the flavors and aromatics. The fish is then deboned and served tableside. Ahnisto is an excellent choice for those with shellfish allergies. Market price, in The Cosmopolitan, Pair with 2015 Driopi Rosé, $14 glass, $60 bottle.

Cacciucco, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse 

Culinary director and chef Nicole Brisson prepares the traditional cacciucco, a stew native to the western coastal towns of Tuscany and Liguria, with calamari, head-on shrimp, Manila clams, Prince Edward Island mussels and scorpion fish. The decadent stew is made from a shellfish brodo (Italian for broth) that is slow-simmered for hours with fish bones and collars, mussels, clams, shrimp shells, mirepoix, tomatoes and herbs. The result is a broth so complex and flavorful you just want to drink it out of a cup. $36, in The Palazzo, Pair with 2007 Podere Le Ripi, Lupi e Sirene, $27 glass, $108 bottle.

Fisherman’s Stew, Harvest by Roy Ellamar 

Executive chef Roy Ellamar showcases the freshest fish and shellfish seasonally available at his new restaurant. The stew’s base is a saffron tomato broth that tastes as though a cioppino and bouillabaisse playfully crossed pots. The broth is made with fish bones, clams, fennel, saffron, tomatoes and aromatics. Piled high with Maine lobster, littleneck clams and mussels, fresh crab and fish, this stew is served with grilled sourdough bread and Old Bay aioli. $39, in Bellagio, Pair with Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence, $16 glass, $60 glass.

Cioppino Fra Diavolo, RM Seafood

Of all the great preparations associated with fisherman’s stews, cioppino is executive chef Rick Moonen’s personal obsession. Along with a generous offering of mussels, clams, king crab, shrimp and the fish of the day, he includes a curious form of pasta called calamarata, which takes its name from its resemblance to calamari rings. Heavy on the pomodoro and spice, the chef’s cioppino also offers the right amount of kick. $38 at RM Seafood in Mandalay Place, Pair with 2011 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, $14 glass.