Vic Casanova's Cacciucco (Gusto, Los Angeles)
Credit: Photograph by Christopher Testani

Bronx native Vic Casanova (no relation) has been cooking Italian food his entire life – at home, coming up in some of New York City's best Italian restaurants, and now at his own spot in Los Angeles, Gusto, acclaimed for its soulful, rustic dishes. So he's a student not just of the cuisine's flavors but also its history. The Seven Fishes, he says, was traditionally practiced more strictly in southern Italy, where the population was poorer. Cacciucco, a tomato-based fish stew you may know as cioppino, was a cheap way to cram several requisite "fishes" into one dish. "You can knock off five or seven types of seafood at once, using each to build flavor progressively," Casanova says. "It's very simple but delicious."

Cacciucco, or Fish Stew
(Serves 8)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lb calamari, cleaned
  • 8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 lb littleneck clams
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 whole garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, finely ground
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 lbs mixed fish, such as branzino or rock cod (scaled, filleted, cut into 1-inch pieces, skin on)
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 loaf rustic bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3 lemons, quartered, seeds removed

Step One
Cut calamari into 1/2-inch rings.

Step Two
Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a medium-size saucepan with a lid. Heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

Step Three
Add mussels and clams and cover, steaming until they open, 3–5 minutes. Remove shellfish and set aside, reserving the juices.

Step Four
In a large sauté pan, add remaining oil over medium heat.

Step Five
Add the minced garlic, parsley, carrot, celery, onion, and ground red pepper. Cook until light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Step Six
Add wine, bring to a boil, then let reduce.

Step Seven
Add the crushed tomatoes, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

Step Eight
Add 2 cups water, reserved mussel and clam juices, and fish. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a light simmer. Cook uncovered until the fish is flaky, about 10–15 minutes.

Step Nine
Add shrimp and cook for about 1 minute.

Step Ten
Add calamari, mussels, and clams, and let simmer until calamari is just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step Eleven
Drizzle olive oil on both sides of bread slices, then toast in a 375°F oven until golden and crispy. Rub with raw garlic clove.

Step Twelve
Warm 8 bowls, then divide the cacciucco evenly. Squeeze lemon over each bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with garlic toast.