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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soup Countdown #4: Cafe Napoli's Cioppino

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM

January is National Soup Month, which makes sense, considering the first month of the year is typically marked with below-freezing temperatures, snow and slush. What's better than a delicious, hot bowl of soup on a chilly day? A delicious, hot bowl of soup that you don't have to make -- that's what. This January Gut Check will revisit some of our favorite hot soups to help guide your belly through this month-long soup celebration.

A bowl of Cafe Napoli's cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew. - STEPHEN FAIRBANKS
  • Stephen Fairbanks
  • A bowl of Cafe Napoli's cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew.

Café Napoli (7754 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-863-5731) first opened its doors in 1989. Ever since, the cioppino, a spicy tomato-based fish stew, has been a staple on its menu.

Long a favorite among Napoli regulars, the soup's recipe has remained unpublished over the years, helping to build its reputation as a local original. The restaurant's menu states that it contains "a variety of fresh seafood in a rich, spicy seafood broth."

Gut Check has at least determined that the standard blend includes calamari (both the circular strips and the tentacles), grouper, clams and swordfish. Along with the seafood are chopped carrots, bay leaves and other spices.

On the afternoon Gut Check stopped by to sample some, our waiter, a seventeen-year Napoli veteran, observed of the spiciness, "We've toned it down just a bit over the years."

In spite of this, there was still a palpable but delicious pepper spice on the end of the palate, while the substantial portion of fish in the bowl didn't leave it tasting, well, fishy. Slightly thicker and richer than the traditional broth base of San Francisco cioppino, the result is a dish that could stand alone with a little bread and butter for a light lunch.

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