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What is a Trenton Tomato Pie?

The New York-style pie is iconic, but approximately 70 miles south of Manhattan, there’s another pizza variation that demands your attention. We’re talking about the lesser known Trenton tomato pie, a Jersey underdog that will leave you questioning the traditional construction of the pizza and yearning for another slice.

What is a Trenton Tomato Pie, and how is it different from a New York pizza?

A traditional New York pizza is made by first applying sauce, then cheese, to a layer of thinly-stretched dough. The Trenton Tomato pie deviates from the plan by putting the cheese and toppings on first, before the tomato sauce. The end result is a pie that has delicious basil-blessed crushed tomatoes in virtually every bite.

It’s only fitting that the Garden State, which prides itself on some of the best tomatoes around, would elevate tomato sauce to the starring role. It’s a fun twist on the traditional pizza, but one that is not at all foreign to lovers of New York-style pies, Neapolitan pizzas, or other more common varieties.     

Why does the sauce go on top?

In theory, a typically assembled pizza could also place emphasis on the tomato sauce by simply adding an extra ladle or three beneath the cheese. That may be true, but proponents of the Trenton Tomato Pie say that adding the sauce after the cheese also results in a sturdier slice overall.

“Normally, pizza is coated in cheese, and you take one bite and the cheese all comes off,” Rick DeLorenzo Jr., owner of Trenton’s famed DeLorenzo’s Pizza says (via New Jersey Monthly). “With tomato pie, you really taste the tomatoes.”

Don’t get lost in the sauce.

The location of the sauce layer is the defining characteristic of the Trenton Tomato Pie, but that’s not all the pizza has to offer. Trenton Tomato Pies are also known for their extra-crispy crust, which eliminates the “New York flop” but adds a different textural twist to the eating experience. The crunchy crust may also spare your shirt from an extra cycle in the wash.

The thickness and crunch of a Trenton Tomato Pie will vary from place to place, but most TTP joints will have at least some crackle in the crust.  

A truly out-of-the-box concept.

In the early days of the Trenton Tomato Pie, purveyors would pack the pizza in newspapers for take out.

“The finished wrapping was shaped like George Washington’s tri-cornered hat,” says Peter Silvestro of Joe’s Tomato Pies in Trenton (via the Los Angeles Times). “And it came with a handle.”

It may have been accidental, but the early pies paid homage to Washington, the man who led the Continental Army to a pivotal Revolutionary War victory in Trenton. Thankfully, the newspaper wrapping was replaced by cardboard boxes a long time ago, so you won’t get an unwanted smattering of ink in your Trenton Tomato Pie.

— Zach Links is an L.A.-based sports journalist who is equally concerned with the outcome of the game and what he’ll be eating at halftime. In addition to serving as a staff writer for The Sauce, he’s also the lead writer and editor of ProFootballRumors.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachLinks and on Instagram @FatZachLinks.

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