Calzone vs. Stromboli: How Are They Different?

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 | 0 Comments
calzone vs stromboli

Everyone knows what a pizza is, but the calzone vs. stromboli debate gets a little more tricky. Calzones and stromboli are both delicious treats made with dough, tomato sauce and cheese, and you’ll likely come across these items at any casual Italian American restaurant that’s worth visiting. But what’s the difference between a calzone and a stromboli? 

While even the most experienced amateur pizza chef has probably tossed dough in pizza making classes in New York, constructed a deep dish pie in pizza making classes in Chicago or even spent hours looking up online pizza making classes, calzones and stromboli require a slightly different set of culinary skills. Read on to learn more about calzones vs. stromboli and the processes for making both of these classic dishes. 


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Calzone vs. Stromboli

When it comes to a calzone vs. stromboli, the difference between the two centers around how the dishes are constructed. A calzone is essentially a regular pizza that’s been folded in half. The inside contains the typical pizza toppings (like cheese and meat), but the circular dough is folded in half and crimped shut before it is baked, creating a closed, half-circle doughy pizza snack. 

a calzone on a plate
via Canva

In contrast, stromboli is a rolled up dough tube filled with pizza-style toppings. Stromboli is usually sliced and split among multiple people. You can recognize a stromboli slice by the classic swirl of dough and toppings that you can see from the side. Although stromboli and calzones sound extremely similar, the distinctions in the calzone vs. stromboli discussion go far beyond the shapes of the dishes. 

cut stromboli viewed from the side
via Canva


The histories of the calzone vs. stromboli are quite different. The calzone is much older than stromboli and can be traced back to 18th-century Naples, Italy. If this rings a bell, it’s for good reason: Naples is the birthplace of one of the most famous pizzas in the world, the Neapolitan. But in addition to being home to the original Neapolitan pizza, Naples is also the origin of the calzone.

Back in the day, street vendors began making calzones as a neater alternative to pizzas. Today you might think of a pizza slice as the perfect meal to eat with your hands, but sliced pizza is actually an American innovation. In 18th-century Naples, folks were getting small personal pies, which are a little more tricky to eat with your hands. Thus, the calzone was invented. By folding the pizza in half before baking it, Neapolitans could enjoy all the pizza flavors without dealing with an unwieldy disk.

a stuffed, closed calzone
via Canva

Eventually, calzones were introduced in the United States by Italian immigrants. The American version of the dish stayed mostly the same, although some restaurants fry their calzones instead of baking them. While the calzone never gained the same level of popularity as pizza in the U.S., it has still remained a standard element of Italian American cuisine. 

Stromboli, on the other hand, is a much newer innovation than calzones. Despite the Italian name, stromboli is actually an Italian American dish. If you’re looking for the best stromboli on Chicago pizza tours or NYC pizza tours, you might be disappointed: Stromboli was born and continues to be most popular in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia. This rolled dough dish was developed during the 1950s in Philadelphia by an Italian American deli owner. Stromboli started as a novelty at one restaurant, but quickly gained steam as a quintessentially American take on Italian ingredients. 

strombolis on display
via Canva

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If you research calzone vs. stromboli, the shortest explanations will say that both dishes have pizza-style fillings. And while cheese, tomato sauce, meat and vegetables can make appearances in both calzones and stromboli, there is still some nuance between the fillings of calzones vs. stromboli. 

In terms of cheese, ricotta is a standard cheese filling for calzones, whereas stromboli usually has mozzarella. Calzones will usually also have an Italian cheese like mozzarella, provolone or Parmesan, but it’s rare for stromboli to include any ricotta. 

Calzone vs. stromboli -- different fillings
via Canva

There’s also a key calzone vs. stromboli difference in the meat fillings. Stromboli operates more like a deli sandwich — which makes sense, since the dish originated at a deli restaurant. You’ll typically find a generous serving of cured meats inside stromboli. In contrast, while a calzone can certainly have Italian cured meats, they won’t be such a dominant filling. 

Finally, a big calzone vs. stromboli distinction is in how the sauce is featured. Stromboli tends to have a thin layer of sauce baked inside the dough, almost like dressing on a sandwich. Meanwhile, a calzone doesn’t contain any, and the tomato sauce is instead served as a dipping sauce on the side. 

meat-filled stromboli
via Canva


You won’t see a major difference in a calzone vs. stromboli in terms of the dough. Both calzones and stromboli are made with pizza dough. For those who aren’t familiar, the standard ingredients for pizza dough are salt, yeast, water, flour and olive oil.

For flour, pizza doughs can use bread flour, all-purpose flour, 00 Italian flour (ideal for thin crust) or whole wheat flour if you want to try out a healthier version. If you’re comparing the doughs of calzones vs. stromboli, the ingredients matter less than what you do with the dough after it’s mixed. 

kneading pizza dough
via Canva

The only real difference in the doughs of a calzone vs. stromboli is the shape. As a folded version of a pizza, a calzone always starts with a round disk of dough. Calzones are intended as a single serving, so the circle of dough is relatively small. After the cheese and other fillings are spread over the dough, the circle is folded in half and baked. In America, calzones are sometimes fried. The shaping process remains the same, but the final texture of the dough will be quite distinct when the calzone is fried. 

Comparing a calzone vs. stromboli, the latter is made with rectangular dough, not a circle. Stromboli is meant for a larger group of people to enjoy, so the rectangle needs to be big enough to produce several slices after it’s baked. Once the pizza dough is shaped into a rectangle, the filling is spread over the surface of the rectangle. The dough is then tightly rolled into a log shape and put into the oven to be baked. 

Calzone vs. stromboli: Similar dough
via Canva

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The techniques for making calzones vs. stromboli are fairly distinct from each other. The calzone is sealed with a crimping method. The crimped seal involves pinching small pieces of the dough together until the shape is completely enclosed, either by hand or with a fork. Many chefs will coat the dough with an egg wash before baking a calzone as a way to strengthen the dough.

Calzones also sometimes have slices along the top to help steam escape during the baking process. With stromboli, there’s no specific shaping method for the seal, and the roll is simply pressed tightly until the shape stays in place, with the ends remaining open. Egg washes and steam vents are less common for stromboli. 

There’s also a difference in technique for calzones vs. stromboli in regards to texture. As a tightly rolled baked good with sauce inside, stromboli can’t contain too much moisture. If the fillings are too wet, the dough could become soggy and unappetizing. This is why stromboli isn’t made with a wet cheese like ricotta. Calzones, however, don’t have sauce on the inside, and the dough shape is sturdy enough to support a good amount of moisture, hence the inclusion of ricotta and other cheese types. 

sliced mushroom stromboli
via Canva

So, ultimately, what’s the difference between a calzone and a stromboli? You might hear Italian American cuisine enthusiasts debating the merits of a calzone vs. stromboli, but both dishes have qualities worth appreciating. Stromboli is savory and satisfying, and a great way to share a meal with friends. A calzone is an indulgent, cheesy treat that will brighten anyone’s day.

If you want to roll up your sleeves and experiment more with a calzone vs. stromboli, you can look into Italian American cooking classes near you. Or, if you’re more of an eater than a cook, go on an adventure to find the best Italian restaurants in your area and compare calzones vs. stromboli. 

For even more fun ways to explore your favorite foods, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.