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.
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.
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.