Best Cioppino - 2000
If anything could be called San Francisco's municipal dish, it would be cioppino. Invented by Italian fishermen working the bay a century ago, it is related to bouillabaisse and cacciucco Livornese and other Mediterranean fish stews in its wine-garlic-tomato-based character, but cioppino includes Dungeness crab and other local sea creatures and features a richer, spicier texture than these Old World dishes. (Another mark of its local character: It is unimaginable without sourdough on the side.) Florio's version is impeccable; the usually overcooked prawns, clams, and mussels are tender and succulent, the base (always a potential downfall) is rich and complex with fennel and other sun-baked herbs, and the accompanying sourdough is grilled, giving the diner additional opportunity to sop up the quickly diminishing contents of his or her bowl.