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The recipe for the Half Moon Bay I.D.E.S. Society's crab cioppino has long been a closely held secret. 

Dungeness crab lovers looking to sink their claws into some good cioppino will be happy to hear that the Half Moon Bay I.D.E.S. Society is gearing up for its annual crab cioppino dinners. The event is held once each month from December to at least March — and possibly April. 

The dinners are known to draw people from across the Bay Area for a tradition that dates back to the 1970s. The I.D.E.S. Hall — where the dinners are served — can accommodate up to 700 people and the society often sells out of tickets. 

The events are held on Saturday evenings, but members begin prepping the hall on Friday mornings. The crab — usually around 2,000 pounds of it — is cracked by the volunteers beginning at 7 a.m. on the morning of the event. This is followed by chopping lettuce for the salad, slicing Half Moon Bay Bakery-sourced baguettes for the garlic bread and by the preparation of the cioppino itself. 

“It’s all volunteer,” said Leonard Stone, who currently serves as the I.D.E.S. Society’s secretary. “I’d say it probably takes 80 people to pull this off from cracking the crab to cooking the crab.” 

The recipe is kept secret from outsiders; the Review was unable to secure an ingredient list despite its best attempts. 

Longtime cioppino dinner attendees will be among the first to enjoy a renovation that was completed on the small hall this October, said Stone. Both bathrooms have since been updated and a kitchen was added. 

Diners pay $60 per ticket, which includes a (seemingly) never-ending supply of crab along with the side dishes and entertainment from a live band that begins playing between 8 and 8:30 p.m. The doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner is on the table by 7 p.m. 

A choice of wine or soda is served with dinner as well. 

For spouses and other people who love people who love crab (but maybe don’t enjoy the crab themselves) the I.D.E.S. Society is happy to provide a steak with some advance notice.

“We don’t want to exclude anybody,” said Stone. 

The dinners serve as a fundraiser for the Holy Ghost Festival, which is held in Half Moon Bay every spring. For those events, the society purchases 7,000 pounds of beef to provide for free to all the event-goers. 

The dates of the cioppino dinners and the phone number to call to get tickets are available on the I.D.E.S. Society website at www.halfmoonbayides.org.

Tickets for the events are generally available the Monday following the last cioppino dinner. The Dec. 1 dinner may be sold out by the time this article is published.

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