The Difference Between Strombolis vs Calzones

The beloved pizza inspired plenty of different dishes over the centuries. While pizza is amazing, the different ways to make pizza come with their own downsides that creative chefs tried to overcome when using pizza as an inspiration. 

Traditional Italian Stromboli stuffed with cheese, salami

So, there is no surprise that folks can mix up some of the foods that come from pizza. In particular, stromboli and calzones get mixed up because of their similar shape and fillings. But, what makes these two dishes different from one another? 

Let’s look at why strombolis and calzones are different and why those differences came to be. 

What is a Stromboli?

A stromboli is an Italian-American invention, originating from the Philadelphia area.

While similar to a pizza, a stromboli starts as a rectangular piece of yeasted dough. Fillings such as cured meats, cheese, and other pizza toppings make up the inside of the stromboli after the dough is wrapped around them. 

Once assembled, a stromboli receives an egg wash or brush of olive oil and some sprinkled cheese on top before baking in the oven.

The slits you see on top of most stromboli help steam escape from the fillings as the insides heat up while cooking. 

After baking, the stromboli is cut into vertical slices and served on their own or with tomato sauce for dipping. 

What is a Calzone?

Unlike stromboli, calzones come from Italy itself rather than Italian immigrants.

A calzone is closest to pizza in its construction because a calzone starts as a circular piece of pizza dough.

Traditional calzones have fillings with a combination of ricotta, Parmesan, or Mozzarella cheese and pizza toppings like cured meats and vegetables. 

The dough folds over the fillings and receives a crimp on the outer edge to seal the filling inside and give the calzone its sculpted shape.

After an egg wash or brush of olive oil, the calzone bakes in a pizza oven until golden brown and crisp. 

Typically, a calzone is served by cutting the dish in half and with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. 

How are Calzones and Strombolis Different?

The biggest difference between a calzone and a stromboli is their dough.

The two dishes use pizza dough but are shaped differently. While a stromboli is rolled into shape, a calzone has a fold and crimp to seal in the filling. 

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The fillings also differ slightly between the two dishes, mostly in the types of cheese they use. A stromboli recipe usually calls for just Mozzarella, but a calzone uses ricotta cheese alongside a selection of others. 

Finally, the two dishes come from different places. Calzones come from Italy herself, while stromboli is the invention of Italian-Americans from southern Philadelphia. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Given how similar stromboli and calzones are, here are some answers to the common questions we see out there about these two delicious dishes: 

Does a calzone or a stromboli have sauce?

Neither calzone nor stromboli traditionally has sauce inside of them.

Between the cheese and vegetables inside these dishes, there’s already a lot of stuff adding moisture inside the dishes as they bake. 

Instead, these dishes usually come with a side of tomato sauce.

In addition to keeping the inside of the calzone or stromboli from getting too wet, doing this also lets you enjoy the flavor of the tomato sauce with the crispy outside of the calzone or stromboli.  

What’s bigger, a stromboli or calzone?

Traditionally, a stromboli is bigger than a calzone. 

However, if you shape your stromboli or calzone, then the size of the dish depends on how large you want to make the dish. There are some limits to keep in mind when baking these dishes. 

For example, a larger calzone will have more depth than a longer stromboli. Because of that extra depth, you might not be able to cook the calzone dough all the way through if the calzone is too big. So, a smaller calzone tends to work better to keep from overbaking the outside. 

Where did the stromboli originate from?

There are a couple of places that claim to have created the stromboli, one in the Philadelphia area and one in Washington state.

Both stories feature an Italian-American chef experimenting with a stuffed pizza or pizza turnover recipe in the 1950s, leading to the creation of the stromboli. 

Because the Philadelphia story claims to have happened before the Washington story, the credit for inventing the stromboli goes to Philadelphia. Specifically, Nazzareno Romano of Romano’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria gets the credit. 

Where did the calzone originate from?

Calzones, much like pizza, owe their invention to the city of Naples.

The goal of creating the calzone was to give workers a way to enjoy something like pizza that didn’t require a knife and fork. Back then, pizzas tended to remain wet in the middle of the pie, preventing the slices from being portable like we think of them now. 

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Over time, as Italian cuisine spread across Europe and North America, the calzone came alongside other Italian staples. Now, it’s rare to find an Italian pizzeria that doesn’t offer a couple of calzone options. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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