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What is Calzone Pizza? (Interesting Things to Know)

By Robert Parsons April 24th, 2023

Calzone, in the simplest terms, is the lesser-known and oddly shaped sibling of pizza. And this puffy, stuffy folded pie has always mystified people who order it for the first time. 

It tastes like pizza. 

It has double the amount of toppings on a pizza. 

It’s heavy and filling. 

But people rarely rate it as equally good as pizza.   

If you’re one of those who are left wondering, ‘Where did this come from?’, you’re on the right page. And you will be surprised at what you’ll find out!

A Brief History

Just like pizza, calzone originated in Naples, Italy in the 1700s. The direct translation of the name (calzoni) is trousers or stockings, and many agree it’s because the half-moon shape looks like a pants leg. Some surmised that it’s also because this dish can be eaten while walking – a perfect snack on the go. 

Traditionally, it is made from salted bread dough, stuffed with a variety of meats (ham or salami), cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, or pecorino), vegetables (onions, bell peppers, and olives), and an egg. It’s an all-Italian fare, except it does not require utensils to consume.

It should be an easy product to market but, for some reason, pizza is still the king of Italian cuisine. Some believe that the only time the calzone became huge in America and the rest of the world was when the TV sitcom Seinfeld featured it in a 1996 episode. Parks and Recreations also highlights this, being the ultimate favourite of Ben Wyatt – one of the lead characters in the show. 

Is It Better Than Pizza?

What is Calzone Pizza

This is a difficult debate to get into; unless you’re Parks and Rec’s Ben who will fight for the calzone until the end. But there is a pretty good reason why 18th-century Neapolitans created this in the first place. 

  • It’s great to-go 

There’s a reason why it took hundreds of years before someone figured out a way to place pizza in a box so it can be delivered to your doorstep. It was meant to be eaten on a plate with utensils. 

The calzone, on the other hand, is baked dough all around so it can be held in your hand. The fillings stay inside too as you bite into a good combination of ingredients, instead of rolling off the flat (sometimes floppy) crust.  

  • There’s more stuffing than toppings

If you want more sausage, cheese, and vegetables, go for a calzone! Unlike pizza which only has one layer of ingredients scattered on top of the crust, this bun can carry way more. It’s more of a meal than just a snack.

  • It stays warm

Fast-food chains have “30-minute delivery or get it for free” advertisements because they know that the public wants their pizza on their doorstep hot and fresh off the oven. No one really likes solidified mozzarella with a film of grease as toppings. 

Calzone is different because of its dough anatomy, securely enveloping the ingredients inside and keeping it piping hot. 

  • You can top it with your favourite sauce

If you eat this in a restaurant, you’re in for a huge treat. Many serve their calzone topped with rich, thick, and tomatoey marinara. Others also offer a variety of sauces like an additional helping of bechamel, garlic aioli, or hollandaise, to name a few. That is hardly done for pizza.  

  • You can share this!

People who order calzone for the first time are always surprised at its size, they end up sharing it or taking the other half home. And that isn’t such a bad thing. 

Must-Try Calzone Varieties 

If the calzone looked familiar to you even if you’re not from Italy, it’s because folded dough filled with delicious stuffing can be found all over the world. Listed below are Italian iterations of this dish and similar recipes from other countries. 

  • Panzerotti 

Originating from Central and Southern Italy, panzerotti is essentially the miniature version of the calzone. This dish is made of the same dough and contains practically the same ingredients. However, they are also deep-fried rather than baked. 

  • Pastizz

This diamond-shaped Maltese dish often eaten for breakfast is made from a filo-type dough and filled with either ricotta or curried peas. The Italian version, u pastizz ‘rtunnar, comes from Basilicata and is served during religious celebrations like Easter. 

  • Cuddiruni

Emerging from Lentini in Syracuse, this is traditionally made from a focaccia-like bread instead of the crusty calzone dough and then stuffed with broccoli, beet greens, tomatoes, and soft sheep cheese. Cuddirunis often have a rope-style border instead of the pinched and forked edges of calzones.  

  • Stromboli

This American-Italian dish is made from rectangular pizza dough and topped with the usual sausage, cheese, and veggie combo. Instead of folding it over, it is rolled and then slid into the oven. A Philadelphia favourite, Stromboli is said to have been invented by Romano’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria and named after a movie starring Ingrid Bergman.  

  • Empanada 

This is the Iberian version of the calzone and can be found in parts of the world that have been colonized by Spain (e.g., Chile, El Salvador, and the Philippines) or Portugal (e.g., North Sulawesi of Indonesia). With a huge number of Latin Americans in the United States, this has become a common street food there as well.   

  • Cornish pasties

Considered an English culinary heritage, this hand-held meat pie was marketed to working men who often had dirty hands, hence the need for a ‘handle’. This is made from shortcrust pastry and filled with beef, onions, and potatoes.

  • Pirozhki

These baked or fried crescent-shaped buns contain a variety of meat, vegetables, and egg. Although it originated in Russia, this is considered a comfort food throughout Eastern Europe. 

The Possibilities are Endless

Many will insist that pizza is still the best Italian dish ever made – numerous Reddit commentaries prove this point. On top of that, restaurants admit that they sell more pizza than calzone with a 40 to 1 ratio. 

But there is something innately special about the calzone that there are days when this feels like the perfect meal. While it plays more of a supporting role to its popular sibling, it is neither bland nor boring. And it will never go away.