What's the Difference Between a Calzone and a Stromboli?
Calzones and stromboli are both staples of Italian cuisine—at least in the United States. Although the words are often used interchangeably, a calzone (cal-zone-eh) and a stromboli (strom-bowl-e) are two very, very different things. These portable pizza variants may share certain ingredients, but their origins, sealing techniques, and fillings set them apart from each other.
So, when it comes to stromboli vs. calzone, don’t let anyone tell you that they’re the same thing. (Because they aren’t!) Instead, use this guide to know the difference between the two—and make your next trip to a pizza joint or Italian restaurant a little easier.
First things first: If you thought stromboli originated in Italy, you thought wrong—it was actually born right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Photography: Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen.
Stromboli was likely created by Italian-Americans in the ‘50s in Philadelphia. Romano's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, which is still around today, claims to be the first to have used the name. According to legend, the restaurant’s owner was struggling to think of a name for his new sandwich. A tabloid-savvy customer suggested “stromboli,” a nod to the recently released romance film starring Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. If you’re not familiar with 1950s Hollywood gossip, Stromboli is notorious for the off-screen love affair between its two married stars.
Calzones, meanwhile, are Italian through and through. Invented in Naples in the 18th century, calzones quickly became a popular street food because they’re easy to eat while standing.
Looking for easy calzone recipes? Try these:
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The major difference between a calzone and a stromboli is how they are folded and sealed before they are baked. Here’s the best explanation I can find, courtesy of Bon Appétit: A calzone is a taco, while a stromboli is a burrito. Calzones and tacos are folded into a half moon shape. Stromboli and burritos are rolled. Simple enough, right?
Both start out the same: Rolled dough topped with ingredients like sauce, cheese, meat, and vegetables. It’s what happens next that’s important.
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To seal a calzone, fold it in half and crimp the edges with a fork. To seal a stromboli, you must first roll it into a spiral and then fold over the extra dough to keep the contents contained. Having trouble picturing it? Imagine this: If a slice of pizza and a Little Debbie Swiss Roll had a baby, it would be a stromboli.
Looking for easy stromboli recipes? Try these:
While stromboli and calzones can have very similar fillings—meat, cheese, vegetables—there are a few notable differences. Calzones usually contain the same ingredients as pizza: tomato sauce, mozzarella, and (almost always) ricotta. Stromboli is typically made without ricotta. Most chefs prefer to use just low-moisture mozzarella to keep moisture at bay. Stromboli is also likely to contain meats that are associated more with sandwiches than with pizza, like salami and capicola.
Where’s the Sauce?
Sauce placement is a pretty big deal in the stromboli vs. calzone world.
Sauce is usually baked into stromboli, while it is served alongside calzones. The key word here is “usually,” because there’s no written rule that says that stromboli must have built-in sauce and that calzones must be dipped. Traditionally, though, that’s how it’s done.
You want to dip your stromboli? Be my guest. Want to bake sauce into your calzone? That’s totally cool, too.