While strombolis have developed more of a national profile in recent years, the baked pizza pockets that are somewhat similar to the more well-known calzones originated in the Philadelphia region. It was in 1950 that Nazzereno Romano, who opened his Essington, PA, pizzeria six years prior, created the delicacy that has grown in popularity to the point where it’s on the overwhelming majority of pizza-shop menus in the Philly region.
The restaurant that bears his name is still family-owned and in the same mostly residential neighborhood just a few minutes south of the Philadelphia International Airport. I ate there once with my wife some years back, but our focus on that occasion was their rectangular sauce-on-top pizza, a local style that I’ve written about a few times. I still hadn’t tried one of their strombolis, which are their main claim to fame and can now be ordered online and shipped anywhere in the U.S.
Thankfully, I don’t need to get one shipped, as I live within 15 minutes of Romano’s. It was just a matter of finally making plans to go back there, and the perfect opportunity arose when my friend Joe asked if I was free to meet for lunch Friday.
The dated interior has a homey feel and probably hasn’t changed a ton over the years. While their menu is fairly long, we were solely interested in their strombolis this time around.
Joe, who had heard about Romano’s history beforehand, was intent on trying an original stromboli with sweet peppers, while I naturally went with a cheesesteak stromboli. I’d have ideally liked one with fried onions, but they are pre-formed each morning and the only option other than plain steak and cheese was one with onions, peppers and mushrooms. That was a no-go for me.
We managed to beat the lunch rush that hit the place by the time we left and received our regular-sized strombolis fairly quickly. Mine was also available in a larger size, but there was no way I’d even finish the smaller one, which came pre-cut into three nice-sized pieces. We each wound up eating two and taking one home.
It was obvious at first glance that there was no problem with excess moisture as was the case with the last cheesesteak stromboli I reported on.
Unfortunately, it had the reverse problem. There wasn’t enough moisture. Both the crust and meat were on the dry side. I still enjoyed the flavor, especially when combined with the very good tomato sauce that came on the side, but the dryness will likely keep me from ordering another of those.
Joe had better results and seemed quite pleased with his original sweet stromboli.
While I’m very glad to have finally tried a stromboli from the place where it was invented, if I return to Romano’s, it will likely be for another sauce-on-top pizza or a pasta entrée. I’ll also eventually try another cheesesteak stromboli elsewhere with the hope that it will be in the happy middle ground between too moist and too dry.
A busy past couple days kept me from sticking to my usual posting schedule. Because of the upcoming holiday, my next post, which will feature a more conventional cheesesteak, will be available Tuesday before noon.
3 thoughts on “Visiting the Birthplace of the Stromboli”
I don’t see a plaque on the building or an history marker on the street. The City needs to get its act together
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I wonder if some onions in your stromboli would’ve added enough moisture to make a difference.
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