Delco’s Great Stromboli Debate
A sandwich? A stromboli sandwich? Who are we to argue with the grandson of the guy who created it more than seven decades ago right here in Delco! “Grandpop” Nazzareno Romano — Nat to some — founded Romano’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant in Essington in 1944 selling “South Philly Tomato Pies.” In an interesting twist to the “Mr. Pizzeria” story, Romano started his journey a decade earlier making square pies — marinara sauce and no cheese — and selling them out of a wagon cart in South Philadelphia. When he opened Romano’s, few people knew what a pizza was, so his style of pies became quite popular.
It wasn’t much of a leap for this innovator to go one better. In 1950 he took storied Italian deli fare — ham, cotechino, capicola, American cheese and roasted sweet bell peppers — stuffed them into his pizza dough and baked them up as a sort of … sandwich! According to third-generation proprietor Peter Romano, Jr., there are different theories about how the name came to be, but “stromboli sandwich” fit the bill and stuck. At least the name “stromboli” stuck! As did the interest: Romano’s has been featured on several news and TV segments, plus newspaper and magazine articles.
From humble tomato pies and strombolis grew a more extensive menu of pizza shop favorites. Still, Romano’s top-seller is all things stromboli, with upwards of 30,000 a year heading out of the shop at 246 Wanamaker Ave. in Essington, and by phone at (610) 521-9010, online and through mail order. If only Grandpop could see them now!
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
It wasn’t long before strombolis were coming out of pizza ovens all over Delco. Who’s improved on the original? Who’s got something unique? Who’s really the best? We’re not taking sides, but instead, we’re offering up a few more favorites. What’s your pick?
Got a must-have pizza? Great, because both family owned shops in Havertown (OK, one’s “in” Drexel Hill with a Havertown address for GPS!) can take any pizza on the menu and whip up a stromboli. Like white pizza? Make it a stromboli. Meat lovers? That’s a stromboli, too. How about Hawaiian? Off the charts as a stromboli. We could go on, but you get the idea. Let us leave you with this one: The Philly Philly, a red pie, Philly cheese steak and caramelized onions made into a … you guessed it .. stromboli! Bonus: Strombolis are priced right between the cost of a small and a large pie. Open seven days, but hours vary by location so call or hit the website for your closest Sam’s.
Sam’s Boardwalk Pizza and Bottle Shop, 31 Brookline Boulevard, Havertown, (610) 446-7404; Sam’s Boardwalk Style Pizza & Dairy Bar Drexel Hill, 1200 Roosevelt Dr., Havertown, (484) 453-8684 and (484) 453-8694.
The Sciarrinos have owned this pizzeria for three decades (and they note that it’s “the original”) training generation after generation to make Italian food to their high standards. The stromboli is no exception! Customers get a little possessive when claiming they’re “the best” in Delco. The options are impressive covering Italian, vegetable and meat go-tos, but what gets us every time is the house special: salami, provolone, ham, mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, meatballs, pepperoni, peppers, onions and sauce. Be hungry; be very hungry. Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 to 11 p.m., and Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
19. N. Brookside Rd., Springfield, (610) 543-8400.
Authentic Italian cuisine meets strombolis at this tiny shop that shares the building with Carmen’s Italian Restaurant and Bar. Strombolis here are less sandwich shaped and more of a crescent which has become rather popular among stromboli makers. Choices are stalwarts from the stromboli game such as veggie with mushrooms, green pepper, onions, broccoli and tomatoes; Italian packed with salami, pepperoni, capicola, ham and mozzarella; and chicken steak married with mushrooms, sweet peppers and onions. The same menu can be served as calzones — but that’s another blog for another day. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m., Friday from 1 to 9:30 pm, Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m.
315 W. MacDade Boulevard, Folsom, (484) 494-0457.
When customers refer fondly to the owner as “Little Dino,” you know it’s going to be great. That and the general consensus that there’s always enough for leftovers thanks to the Konstandinou family’s generous portions. Naturally that includes the strombolis, which some say can feed a family of four! We love the customization options: Each stromboli comes with mozzarella and sauce (of course!). In fact, there’s a simple cheese and sauce stromboli option. Tomatoes, onions and peppers are by request. Feast your eyes on the rest of the menu, and consider the gut-busting Philly Special: gyro, steak, chicken steak, chicken fingers and fries. Open Sunday and Tuesday from 11 a.m to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m to 9 p.m.; closed Monday.
5 N. Bartram Ave., Glenolden, (610) 583-1111
Since 1978 the Makriniotis family has been satisfying locals’ appetites with pizza shop cuisine, including pizza box-filling, horseshoe-shaped strombolis. Here, too, strombolis share the menu with calzones, noting that ‘boils are made with mozzarella and sauce while their cousins are made with ricotta and mozzarella and sauce on the side. The selection is strong with popular fillings joined by a few surprises like the buffalo chicken packed with mozzarella, sauce and hot sauce-soaked grilled chicken with blue cheese on the side, and the steak bomb that includes mushrooms, fresh garlic, green peppers, onions, sauce and mozzarella. You won’t leave hungry! Open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:45 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m to 9:45 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7:45 p.m.; closed Monday.
4302 Township Line Rd., Drexel Hill, (610) 449-5200.
There’s a lot of buzz around what this pizza shop does best; raving fans are always a good sign! The pizza shop menu is extensive and boasts a Greek twist, too. Still, we’re obsessed with the strombolis, Italian-style business filled with onions, sweet peppers, sauce and mozzarella — to start. There’s a solid lineup that joins those tempting ingredients in baked pizza dough: steak, chicken, pepperoni, sausage, meatball, lunchmeat, veggie or buffalo chicken (with hot sauce and blue cheese on the side to tame the buffalo). Pick small (not small!) or large (more than enough!) Open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
40 E. State St., Media, (610) 565-3883.
What to Know Before You Go
Pizza and sandwich shops have navigated the pandemic better than most since they offered takeout, anyway. That’s not to minimize the disruption created by changing rules and guidelines to protect employees and customers. Since guidelines continue to flux, it’s best to contact them to confirm procedures. All are following masking and social distancing protocols. Some offer curbside pick up in addition to takeout. Some suggest online ordering. A few offer local delivery. It’s a quick call, so you’ll know before you go.
Want to know more about everything Delco? We’re more than just your source for good eats — we’re your source for Delco From Home Experiences and where to get takeout and support local businesses in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We’re Visit Delco, PA, and we’ve got you covered during the coronavirus crisis (and beyond). Contact us at (610) 565-3679, by email or online.— Nina Malone
Featured photo courtesy of Romano’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant