A 45-minute drive separates New Jersey’s capital from the City of Brotherly Love, but their tomato pies truly set them apart.
There’s the Trenton Tomato Pie and then there’s the Philly Tomato Pie. Please, don’t cause a ruckus by confusing one for the other if you’re in one of the local shops that serve them.
Think about it – Do the Eagles and Jets don the same shade of green? No, of course not! One is Midnight Green and one is Gotham Green. Duh.
Around these parts, you ought to know your stuff. We’re here to help you spot the difference between the Tomato Pies in Jersey haunts and Philly jaunts with our Styles Spotlight:
On a Trenton Tomato Pie, the cheese is applied directly to the dough, before the tomatoes.
On a Philly Tomato Pie, there’s barely any cheese at all.
Yup! It’s true. The Philly Tomato Pie often has just a dusting of Romano or Parmesan. The Trenton Tomato Pie, meanwhile, has a layer of gooey mozzarella that we’re all more accustomed to, though not at Chicago Deep Dish or even New York-style levels.
Another key difference between the Trenton Tomato Pie and the Philly Tomato Pie is the shape – the TTP is usually round, while the PTP is square. That’s just one of several forks
in the road on the table.
The TTP’s crust is on the thin and chewy side, not unlike a Neapolitan pie. At the same time, it’s perfectly crispy, thanks to the pizzaiolo’s careful watch of the oven timer. In fact, the crispiness of the Trenton Tomato Pie is the calling card of De Lorenzo’s, Papa’s, and other top shops in the area.
The Philly Tomato Pie, meanwhile, is built on a dough that is more akin to a focaccia. It’s thick, filled with air bubbles, and softer all around than the Trenton Tomato crust.
The NJ-version of the Tomato Pie is topped with crushed tomatoes, allowing one of the Garden State’s finest exports to shine in their natural form.
Philly’s pies, meanwhile, get super saucy with a blend of pureed peeled tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano, pepper flakes, sugar, chopped onion, a bit of Pecorino Romano cheese, and other goodness.
Or, if you’re attempting the Philly Tomato Pie at home, you can follow in the kitchen mat imprints of the great J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and add a bit of butter into the mix for milky flavor and extra richness. This might not be standard protocol for every PTP purveyor, but know this: Kenji is always right and butter is always a good call.
The now-defunct Joe’s Tomato Pie (R.I.P – Rest In Pizza) served up the first Trenton Tomato Pie in 1910. Giuseppe “Joe” Papa, who cut his teeth at the OG TTP shop, opened his first shop two years later, in 1912. Over 100 years later, Papa’s Tomato Pies is a cherished NJ institution.
In Philly, historic bakeries including Iannelli’s (Est. 1910) and Sarcone’s (1918) and shops like Tacconelli’s (~1920) brought the Philly Tomato Pie to the forefront.
Oh, speaking of the bakeries…
In Philly, you might see the Philly Tomato Pie referred to as a Bakery-style Pizza, Church Pie, Granny Pizza, Red Pie, or Red Pizza.
In NJ, some locals and shops refer to the Trenton Tomato Pie as the New Jersey Tomato Pie. Simple enough.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call either one of these insanely delicious pizzas – just make sure you order one whenever you get the opportunity.
You just made me so homesick! I grew up in Trenton and have been to Joe’s many times….their pick up window was the first drive thru!
So much history there, it’s a shame Joe’s isn’t around anymore. What are your other favs for Trenton Tomato Pies?
The PTP style of pizza that you describe here is actually called an Old Fashioned here in Trenton. Either the thin crust ( traditional) or on a thick crust called SICILIAN which you describe as PTP
Which is your fav? Old Fashioned or Sicilian/PTP?
Very informative and nicely written. I’ll be in South Jersey in December. Good Lord willing, I think I’ll try a TTP, while I’m there.
Thank you so much for reading!
Enjoy the TTP! Do you have any places in mind?
I live in the Pocono’s but most of my family still live in or near Trenton. Every visit to family ends up at DeLorenzo’s in Robbinsville. Untouchable!
Yes! DeLorenzo’s is legendary!
Have you tried the Philly Tomato Pie as well? How does it stack up to Trenton’s, in your book?