What is Stromboli?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

While there are many different types of meat turnovers the world over, none are quite like the stromboli, somewhat similar to the submarine sandwich and close relative to the calzone. This hot, baked and delicious offering, copied by commercial variants like Hot Pockets® may have first emerged on the East Coast. Most people credit Nazzareno Romano, the proprietor of Romano’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, in Philadelphia, with its invention. A few claim that instead, Mike Aquino invented the dish on the West Coast. The first claim is more credible, with most people remembering the advent of the stromboli at Romano’s in the early 1950s.

Marinara sauce might be served as a dipping sauce for stromboli.
Marinara sauce might be served as a dipping sauce for stromboli.

The name for stromboli is a direct reference to the neorealistic film by director Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli, Terra di Dio, which was well known in the US since it starred Ingrid Bergman. The film was made in 1950, and the sandwich/pastry by the same name is said to have emerged at roughly the same time as the film’s release. Most Italian immigrants would certainly have viewed the film with pleasure, since it was released in Italian first.

Salami and other Italian meats are used to make stromboli.
Salami and other Italian meats are used to make stromboli.

Regardless of origin, today you can find the stromboli in various incarnations in a variety of stores throughout the US. It is essentially a combination of Italian meats and cheese, wrapped in bread or pizza dough and then baked so the interior is piping hot. Instead of being the semi-circle shape typical in calzone, it more resembles a slightly rounded oblong, or a completely closed in burrito. The dough bakes around the meat forming the bread to create what many consider the superlative submarine sandwich.

Stromboli may be served with marinara sauce on the side for dipping, and does tend to differ enough from the calzone to deserve a different appellation. Most calzones, though they may include Italian meats like salami, pepperoni, or prosciutto, have a much higher cheese content. The cheese added to a calzone is usually grated, and when the half-moon is cut, cheese should literally gush from the interior. Some calzones also include marinara sauce in their interior, though this is not always the case.

Instead of using grated cheese, the traditional stromboli uses sliced cheese and tends to include quite a bit more Italian deli meat. It more closely resembles a submarine sandwich than it does a calzone. As tempting as this delicious dish is, be careful when you first take a bite of it. The filling is typically extremely hot, and can easily burn your tongue, rendering your enjoyment of the rest of your meal less agreeable.

Stromboli may feature pepperoni.
Stromboli may feature pepperoni.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Once when I was on a health kick, I tried making a vegetarian stromboli for myself and my kids. It didn't really go over all that well. Even though I know it was healthier, everyone missed the traditional meat and melted cheese.

A true stromboli can be a lot of fat and calories, so I don't eat them very often. If I order one of these at a restaurant, I will usually only eat half of it and bring the other half home to eat the next day.

These are also fun to make with your kids as they enjoy filling them with the ingredients they like best. I don't care for salami, but this is what my son likes the best. If he makes his own, he can add as much salami as he wants.


I have served stromboli at parties before as an appetizer and it is always a big hit. When you cut this up into small slices, one stromboli can go a long ways.

These are easy finger foods to pick up and eat when they are cut like this. I like to use three kinds of meat and usually use ham, salami and pepperoni. Using different kinds of cheese like provolone, mozzarella and Parmesan also make these hard to resist.

By using frozen bread dough for the crust, these don't really take that long to put together, and I never have any left over.


I like eating stromboli and a calzone, but usually prefer a calzone because I love cheese. I don't think you can add too much cheese when you are melting it with meat and warmed up inside some dough.

If I make stromboli at home, I will add more cheese than what is traditionally used. That is one reason I enjoy making a lot of my own food. It is fun to add your favorite ingredients and spices.

You can also use lower fat cheese and something like turkey pepperoni to cut down on the amount of grease and fat you are getting.


I am not a big fan of stromboli simply because I don't like that much dough. I usually love all the ingredients that go inside them, but prefer this without all the extra calories of all the bread.

I love Italian food though, and my favorite kind of pizza is anything on a thin crust. I think you can eat more and feel less guilty when you don't eat so much bread with the meat and cheese.

If you have a slice of thin crust pizza with a healthy salad with lots of vegetables, you don't have to feel guilty about what you are eating.


Sausage stromboli is delicious. It reminds me of pizza, probably because I always order sausage on my pizza!

I buy the ground sausage and cook it a little before putting it in the dough. I also add onions and tomato sauce.

Most people like cheese in theirs, but I actually prefer to concentrate on the other flavors. To me, cheese just makes stromboli too rich and makes me a little sick at my stomach.

There is no food more delicious than sausage stromboli, in my opinion. I make it once a week, usually on the weekends, when I have more time to enjoy it.


My husband takes frozen stromboli with him to work and eats it for lunch every day. Luckily, he only works three days a week, so he isn’t getting all those calories every single day.

He just pops one in the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up. However, it will remain hot for several minutes after being taken out of the microwave. So, he pierces it with a fork or carves it in slices with a knife to help speed the cooling process along.

He only gets 30 minutes for lunch, but since he eats in the break room instead of driving elsewhere, this gives him enough time to let the stromboli cool before eating it. The very first time that he ate one, he didn’t know how hot it would be, and he burned his tongue. He has learned that patience is a virtue when it comes to hot stromboli!


@jonrss - You have to be careful with something as delicious yet greasy and fat as this. Stromboli causes eruptions of the intestines at times, and I’m not the only one whom it affects this way.

I ate some stromboli at a restaurant last year, and within half an hour, my guts were grumbling loudly. I had to race to a bathroom, and I had severe diarrhea. I had to go home for the day, and I had it several more times that afternoon.

My friend who ate stromboli also had violent noises and movements going on in her bowels. I think with stromboli, it’s best to just eat half of one and take the rest home for later.


@turquoise - I like your idea for a veggie stromboli! I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I can’t stand the taste or texture of cheese.

I do love bread, though, and the stromboli crust is delicious. My friend once made me an all beef stromboli, and though it was a bit too much meat for me to eat at one sitting, I loved the flavor.

I’m going to try putting tomatoes and spinach inside of the dough and see how it turns out. It sure sounds a lot healthier than gooey cheese and protein-packed meat.


You know, until recently, I thought a stromboli and a calzone were pretty much the same thing. However, it sounds like they really are a lot different! They differ in shape, and the fillings are different too.

This article makes both of them sound totally delicious though. Just reading the descriptions made me hungry for a calzone (or maybe a stromboli.) I think I may follow some of the other commenter's leads and try to make a homemade version of one of these delicious meals sometime soon.


@ceilingcat - I thought the stromboli had been invented well before the 1950's myself! I think it's funny someone on both the East Coast and the West Coast claim to have invented it. I guess that was the original East Coast/West Coast rivalry!

Either way, I love both stromboli and calzone. I don't really think there is any way you can go wrong with bread, meat, cheese and sauce anyway! I definitely like stromboli better than a submarine sandwich, because there isn't as much of a chance of the filling falling out of it while you're trying to eat.


I had no idea that the stromboli was an American invention! I always thought it was a traditional Italian thing, straight from Italy. Although come to think of it, I usually only see strombolis served in Italian-American deli kind of places. I've never seen a stromboli served at a fancy Italian restaurant.

Also, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Americans tend to make our own spin on traditional foods. Most of the foods served at "Chinese" restaurants in the US aren't the same as what you would eat in China. I think the fortune cookie was even an American invention!


I really like strombolis but I feel like I take off about a week of my life every time I eat one. Seriously, you cannot stuff that much meat and cheese into a greasy piece of bread and not have it just ravage your insides once you swallow it down. But that is all right. Sometimes you have to make concessions for deliciousness.


@anamur-- Yea, the dough requires some practice. It also took me a couple of tries to get it perfect. You don't want the dough to be too sticky or too dry. If it's too dry, it will become very stiff after cooling down. If it's too sticky, it will lose its shape in the oven and it will mix up the ingredients too.

Try to get a feel for how the dough is doing while kneading it. Kneading is the most important part, along with the right proportions of flour, water and oil. I use one cup of water for each two and one thirds cup of flour and several tablespoons of oil. While kneading, if the dough sticks to your hand, add some more dough. If it's too dry, add a very small amount of water. Keep doing this until you get the perfect consistency.

And you don't have to make stromboli in a rolled up shape. You can make it into an enclosed rectangle like a pastry if that's easier for you.


@turquoise-- Wow, that sounds great!

I've tried my hand at homemade stromboli too but it was a lot harder than I expected. Do you have any tips for me for the stromboli dough?

The dough is definitely the hardest part to get right. The ingredients and the rolling part I can definitely manage, but I can't seem to make a good dough. I've been using ready-made frozen dough instead of homemade for that reason. It's okay but I know it would taste a lot better if I could made the dough myself too.

The first time I tried making the dough, it was a complete failure. I think it was too soft because even though it looked okay while rolling, it lost its shape in the oven. The end result was not very pretty.

Do you have any tips for me?


I kind of think of stromboli as a rolled up pizza. That's how I felt about it when I first had one at a restaurant. In a way, it's better than a pizza, because like a pastry or a sandwich, it can be taken along with you to work or to a picnic. And being a huge fan of pizza, especially homemade pizza, I've been making stromboli a lot lately.

I know the original recipe is basically cheese and meats. But really, you can put any ingredient in it you want. Sometimes I do stick to cheese and meat. But on some days, I make veggie versions or pizza versions of it with tomatoes, pesto, sometimes cheese and sometimes spinach. No matter what I put in it, it turns out great!

Post your comments
Forgot password?