Tomato pie has a few differing definitions. In Trenton NJ and New Haven CT, pie makers use it to describe their crust-tomatoes-cheese product. It is distinctly different than other pizzas that use (typically) more cheese and less chunky tomatoes or sauce, but still clearly pizza. In the close Western suburbs of Philadelphia, tomato pie comes most often from a bakery, not a pizzeria, and it has no cheese or a mere dusting of Parmesan. The sauce is applied thickly, and it’s often sweeter than normal. Its crust is rectangular, thick like a Sicilian pie, but generally light and airy. And it is most often served and eaten at room temperature. The square slice at the fabled L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn is, essentially, tomato pie served hot from the oven (and a great slice).
|Before cooking and doctoring. Click to enlarge!|
The epicenter for cheeseless tomato pie is Norristown/Conshohocken. We’ve had the tomato pie from Conshohocken Italian Bakery (Conshy Bakery) and it’s very good; the tomato pie from Corropolese in Norristown is ethereal and made the list of our 41 best pies to date. All of this is background for my delightful surprise when, last weekend in Costco (Wilmington DE), we found a big stack of tomato pies from Morabito’s in Norristown. A huge rectangle pie was $6.99 and naturally, I had to have it.
We’re fans in general of the gigantic slices of hot soft Americanized pizza you can get in-store, as well as the take-and-bake variety. Finding a more authentic product from a local bakery was a delightful surprise, and I wonder how far it is distributed? Nice to see a local bakery get a slot selling in Costco, and nice to expose the masses to better pizza-like products.
For context, it’s good to know that I like tomato pie for its simplicity – good bread with good sauce. A slice from Corropolese or L&B is heavenly. “Having said that,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgd2w0SQEYI), I sometimes think of tomato pie as a Sicilian pizza without the cheese. So I typically doctor it up and turn it into pizza. While at Costco, I purchased a ball of fresh mozzarella and twin sticks of soppressata and hard salami.
|Doctored up, pre-bake|
When it was time to eat this pie, I covered it in half-moons of dense hard salami slices (sort of like non-spicy pepperoni). I did the same thing with slices of the fresh mozzarella, but I left about a quarter of the pie cheeseless for two reasons – I wanted to try it as the bakers intended (albeit heated), and EPBAC (eats pizza but avoids cheese) likes any pizza better when the cheese is reduced/eliminated.
|Out of the oven|
It went into my conventional gas oven at 375 degrees, directly on the center rack (no pan). I baked it for 10 minutes, then switched to broil for 4 minutes or so until the cheese began to brown and bubble. The broil technique is great for the last few minutes of any pizza in the oven, whether home-made, fresh-made, or reheating. Gets that nice sizzly taste and texture on top without burning the bottom crust.
|Browning of the cheese|
When it came out, I sprinkled the top with grated Romano Locatelli cheese and dried basil. Time for the taste test!
The sauce was sweetly delicious, and it was the star element of this tomato pie. The cheese and salami from Costco were high quality, and these salty/savory ingredients worked really well with the sweet tomato sauce. The crust was medium thickness and more dense than the airy stuff from Corropolese; that may be by design, or it may be compaction from sitting for 3 days in my refrigerator with all that sauce riding on top. It had a good moisture balance and a satisfying crispness, although it was uniform in texture and color. On this tomato pie, the crust is a bit of a role player. Tasty, but not a standout. I had one of the no-cheese slices and that does give you the chance to appreciate the simple purity of crust and sauce (even though I had added salami slices).
|The understated underside|
Morabito Bakery take-home tomato pie from Costco is a winner, and a bargain. The crust gets a 6, the sauce gets an 8.5. You may well enjoy it best as it’s meant to be eaten. Overall, it comes in at 7.5 and we expect to eat this on a regular basis. Kudos (again) to Costco and congrats to Norristown’s own Morabito Bakery.