Stromboli vs. Calzone. So what's the difference?

While spaghetti and lasagna headline nearly every Italian bistro, bar, and pizza joint from New York to New Mexico, there are a couple of supporting stars that often get overlooked and mixed up. Their names skirt the Italian landscape from Naples to the Isle of Stromboli (even though one is an all-American creation) and, while they contain many of the same ingredients, Stromboli and calzone are two entirely different dishes.

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between Stromboli and a calzone? Let’s take a look at their signature styles and savory comfort food personalities.

Stromboli vs. Calzone

Courtesy: Sandy Allen

Their likenesses are evident. Both feature the rustic aromas of fresh-baked pizza dough, herbs and spices, and Italian meats and cheeses. Then there’s the totally Italian names. However, there are some differences in the calzone and Stromboli that are worth mentioning. The main difference between the two is the overall shape and how the dough is sealed, which we’ll get into below.

What Is Stromboli?

Stromboli (Courtesy: Sandy Allen)

Similar in DNA to its Italian cousin the calzone, Stromboli is filled with Italian meats such as salami and bresaola as well as cheese and vegetables. It’s then rolled into a tight bundle that’s similar to a burrito, a jelly roll, or a traditional apple strudel (without the jelly and apple cinnamon filling, of course) and baked to a crispy golden tan.

Despite its Italian name, the Stromboli is an all-American creation. This “sandwich” of sorts was created by “Grandpop” Nazzereno Romano, founder of Romano’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Essington, Pennsylvania on the outskirts of Philadelphia. In the early ‘50s, Romano started experimenting with dough and different ingredients to create a new menu item. He filled the secret dough recipe (everything great starts with a secret recipe) with a stack of Italian meats, bell peppers, tomato sauce, and cheese.

This nameless concoction quickly became a hit. After a curious customer asked what it was called, Romano admitted that it didn’t have a name and invited him to suggest one. Now, at this time in history, there was a scandal involving Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini. The two had become romantically involved during the filming of a movie called "Stromboli." Bergman created quite the scandal when she left her husband and daughter for Rossellini. The customer, who was apparently intrigued by this scandal, said “Why don’t you call it Stromboli?” The name stuck and here we are today.

There is another story that claims the Stromboli is named after the Mt. Stromboli volcano on Italy’s Isle of Stromboli, which is where Bergman and her co-star Mario Vitale escape to in the movie. So, technically, there could be some misguided truth to that story. I’m choosing to go with the Bergman/Rossellini version. Who doesn’t love a good scandal?

Romano’s Pizzeria opened in 1944 and is still in business. It has been featured on The Today Show and on a segment of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations on The Travel Channel, which showcased popular food from the Delaware Valley.

What Is a Calzone?

Calzone (Courtesy: Sandy Allen)

The calzone was originally known as a calzoni in its hometown of 18th-century Naples, Italy where it was sold on the street as an eat-and-go type of item. The word calzone actually translates to “pants legs,” which refers to the fact that you can walk around with it without dripping sauce all over yourself (think: New York-style pizza). This half-moon shaped pocket of ricotta cheese, vegetables, pepperoni, and Italian sausage starts off as a round slice of pizza dough. It then gets filled, folded in half, and crimped at the edges (to keep all of that delicious-ness inside) before being baked in the oven.

Main Differences Between the Calzone and Stromboli

  • Calzones always have ricotta cheese as a filling. Stromboli has mozzarella.
  • Calzones don’t have tomato sauce inside; they’re dipped in sauce. Stromboli can be dipped (and we wouldn’t have it any other way), but there’s usually sauce wrapped up within the filling.
  • Calzones are folded (like a quesadilla). A Stromboli is rolled (like a burrito).

Whether you prefer dipping a calzone or slicing into a saucy Stromboli, there’s no doubt that the two pizza joint staples will remain at the top of menus way past the next scandal to come out of Hollywood. I mean, one has already been around since the 1700s.

Do you prefer Stromboli or calzone? Or maybe some other Italian specialty? Let us know in the comments.