When Al Scoma opened his eponymous seafood restaurant in 1965, San Francisco was a very different city than it is today. And while Scoma's will celebrate 50 years in San Francisco this year, it's dishes like their Lazy Man's Cioppino that keep locals and tourists coming back—in fact, it's the top seller in a restaurant that serves up to 1,000 diners a day during the busy season. But despite its easygoing moniker, Scoma's Lazy Man Cioppino actually starts with some pretty hard work. Every morning, the restaurant's 46-foot custom-built fishing boat heads out to the coast along Bodega Bay, fishing for the latest catch. According to Tom Creedon, Al's son-in-law and president of the company, that's usually salmon, but during Dungeness crab season, Scoma's can be found pulling up fresh crustaceans caught right off the coast. When the fish arrives at the pier, it's immediately loaded into the restaurant's fish receiving station and prepped for the restaurant. One of the first restaurants along the Wharf to partner with Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, Scoma's is serious about their seafood from start to finish.
In keeping with Al Scoma's legendary work ethic, Scoma's prepares every part of their popular dish on-premises, from the fish stock to the thick, rich marinara. Imported Italian tomatoes make up the base of the homemade marinara, but the secret ingredient is imported Sicilian oregano. And of course, what makes it Lazy Man's cioppino: fresh crab that has been released from the bondage of its shell, requiring none of the cracking and picking that can accompany other versions of the dish.
While not every fish or sea creature that goes into the cioppino is caught locally, it's all served incredibly fresh: calamari from Monterey, Manila clams, prawns, mussels, halibut, red snapper, local Petrale sole and Dungeness crab all appear here, depending on the day. When an order is fired, seafood and marinara come together on the stove, simmering until the seafood is cooked through but still tender. The final dish is served in a bowl big enough for two (with a side of toasted bread), then delivered to the dining room by one of Scoma's white-coated servers.
Despite its age, Scoma's isn't a dinosaur. It's still vibrant, with regulars young and old and visitors from all over the world. As the big five-oh approaches, Creedon says they plan to make a few upgrades to the restaurant's bar and dining room, though nothing major will change— old-school drinks like martinis and Manhattans will prevail, alongside the food that has made Scoma's successful from the start.