The Daley Question
March 26, 2013
Q: What's the difference between a calzone and a strombolli? I might have misspelled that. It's early and my coffee hasn't kicked in.
—Susan Durian, Chicago
The calzone is defined as a "half-moon shaped stuffed pizza" by "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion." The fillings can included meats, vegetables or cheese. Calzones may be baked or deep-fried. It originated in Naples, the Companion notes.
Stromboli — there's only one "l" but it's easy to type two, especially when tired — is described by the Companion as a "calzone-like enclosed sandwich of cheese (usually mozzarella) and pepperoni (or other meat) wrapped in pizza dough."
What's the difference between a calzone and a stromboli? The shape, for one thing. A calzone is a puffy half-moon or football while a stromboli, or at least the ones I've encountered, are long rectangles, often rolled like a jelly roll.
Stromboli is, the Companion reports, a specialty of Philadelphia. That got me curious so I started digging. That led me to Pete Romano Sr., owner of Romano's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Essington, Pa. He was there for the creation and the naming of stromboli.
You see, it was his dad, Nazzareno "Nat" Romano, who is credited with inventing the stromboli in 1950. He was inspired by a form of Italian "stuffed" pizza in which various fillings are sandwiched between two layers of dough and baked without sauce.
"From that, he got the idea of making a loaf of bread with that stuffing instead of a flat pizza. He put them out on the counter as samples,'' recalls Pete Romano Sr. "My brother-in-law, who was then not my brother-in-law, said, 'What do you call it, Nat?' My father didn't know."
It was that future brother-in-law, William Schofield, who called it "stromboli" after a just-released Ingrid Bergman movie made notorious by the off-screen affair between the married actress and her director, the married Roberto Rossellini, which resulted in a son being born before the two could marry each other. America was scandalized.
"Stromboli was on everyone's lips,'' Pete Romano Sr. said. "Not because of the movie but because of what happened to Ingrid Bergman. So my brother-in-law spit out the word, 'Stromboli.' Anyone who uses that name is just copying us."
Of course, those imitators are off the hook because Stromboli is also a place, a small volcanic island off the coast of Sicily.
Romano says many imitators also roll up the stromboli like a jelly roll. That's not how it's done at his restaurant. Romano's stromboli looks rather like a long loaf of Italian bread with the stuffing running down the middle and baked, sort of like a seamless sub sandwich.
His son, Pete Romano Jr., says the family now makes stromboli in batches of 200 at one time, with all sorts of proofings and risings for the dough. The younger Romano is proud of the results.
"Our customers contend it's all about the bread,'' says Pete Romano Jr. "We didn't invent bread or stuffed bread but we invented the name stromboli."
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