Visiting the Birthplace of the Stromboli

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 Birthplace of the stromboli, in Essington, PA
Customers pass by the takeout counter to get to the dining-room.
This is the pizza I shared with my wife during my only previous visit to Romano’s.

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.

Joe’s Original Sweet Stromboli
Each Romano’s stromboli comes with their house-made tomato sauce on the side. Many other local pizzerias bake the sauce with the cheese and other ingredients inside the sealed dough. Opinions differ as to which method is better, but I prefer the sauce on the side.
My Cheesesteak Stromboli

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. 

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

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