Understanding Philadelphia-style Tomato Pie

It’s not easy to explain the concept of Philadelphia-style tomato pie to anyone not from the area.  Heck, it’s hard enough to get consensus from some Philadelphians about what true tomtato pie is.  There’s the square cut, thick but soft crust, made on baking sheets and topped with a substantial layer of tomato sauce.  Then there’s the thin crust dough, shaped like a regular pizza, topped with tomato sauce popularized by neighborhood places like Tony’s Place in Northeast Philly.  While that style is more similar to Trenton tomato pies, it’s the former version that’s more commonly regarded as Philly-style tomato pie.

To others, this type of pizza, at least on paper (and in pictures), doesn’t necessarily appeal.  A recent feature on Slice about Conshohocken Bakery’s tomato pie generated much more negative comments than positive ones from those who’ve never had this type of pizza. 

To try it, though, is to get it.  Tomato pie is often served at room temperature, and I don’t think you really need it warmed up.  The sauce is the key, and it stays with your taste buds for a while.  Sure, the thick dough adds a lot of “empty calories,” but the soft texture works.  Best of all, at neighborhood places in South Philadelphia, Conshohocken and Northeast Philly, tomato pies are pretty cheap for the quantity you get.  Paying $3.60 for a quarter slab from Conshohocken Bakery feeds you for two lunches. 

Trenton-style tomato pie, as well as versions from other regions, all are good in their own way, but Philly-style tomato pie holds its own as well.

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