Stromboli has been around for six decades, yet it’s still a fresh new way to excite customers
Stromboli is an under-appreciated pizzeria menu item. Here’s why: you can take it on the go and it can be stuffed with practically anything you have in your kitchen. You can have as much variety with it as a sandwich shop has with their meats and cheeses. I’ve had a lot of great stromboli across the nation, but it’s rarely the focus of the menu — it’s typically more of a token item. I’ve never understood that. Stromboli is the original crunch-wrap supreme, and let’s dissect why Taco Bell decided to make an item like that. All
culinary snootery aside, it was made to fight off the sandwich game and the McKing competitors. The stromboli is that for pizza. It can be marketed as the working-man’s pizza: an easy, less messy way to get your pizza fix on the go. It’s an item that the big boys in pizza aren’t pushing and one you can capitalize on. This month, let’s get into how to create and brand your pizzeria’s stromboli.
Before we jump into how to make a solid stromboli that represents your brand, let’s look at the history of the food. The stromboli is not authentically Italian. Any authenticity to Italy starts and ends with the ingredients you use. Stromboli was first made in Philadelphia in the 1950s at Romana’s Pizzeria. Romana’s got the name from the 1950 Rossellini movie that starred Ingrid Bergman. Naming food items based on Rossellini movies is not a tactic I suggest, since “The Machine That Kills Bad People (1952)” doesn’t roll off the tongue and doesn’t read well on a menu.
So you have a good menu, solid items in your store, great pizza crust, but no stromboli. Why add it? You should add it because a varied menu, with interesting new items, is a good way to fight off customer fatigue and give you something new to keep top-of-mind awareness with your base. And, if you can make a good pizza, you can make a good stromboli. There are two frames of thought on stromboli: baking it inside bread, or using a pizza dough. I believe in cross-utilization inside my kitchen, so my recipe calls for a pizza dough.
Here is how we make stromboli at Andolini’s Pizzeria:
- I push out a 14-ounce dough (yes, I like to sell a large stromboli. You might not, and that’s fine.)
- Then I put cheese on first. I do this because I am going to flip the stromboli over at one point and this makes sure the cheese is on top and fully melts in the oven.
- From here I add sliced-in-house meats such as pepperoni, Genoa salami and, for good measure, Canadian bacon.
- I then add sausage, cut on an angle, that we make and stuff in house as well. At this point I could stop, wrap the whole thing up and call it a day on my “Meat Lovers” (create your own meat-based name) stromboli.
- But, I like to add a little more and get a higher price point. We add mushrooms, black olives, red onions, and green bell peppers to take this thing over the top and create the “wow” factor to justify the cost.
- I suggest cutting the excess dough, pinching the two sides together or folding them over — but make sure they stick. Watch out on the fold-over method because excess dough at the bottom on a stromboli could result in an uncooked bottom and charred top, considering its height.
- I then cut or rip any remaining excess dough from the sides, add a sheen of extra-virgin olive oil and then cut slits into the top to aerate the stromboli. It’s now ready to go into your oven.
- Cook at a basic pizza oven temperature of 550 F until the top is golden and the inside is fully cooked and melted. We serve ours with an 8-ounce cup of our marinara for dipping (no marinara inside!).
So now you have the basics on how to make a great stromboli. But anyone with experience in this business will tell you that knowing how to make the menu item is only half the battle. What makes it sell is you and how you brand the item. My friends at Wholly Stromboli are the exception to the rule. They put stromboli at the forefront of the menu (a smart move in a saturated pizza market). Each stromboli they have hits on a different demo point like most pizzerias would. Think about your menu and your existing ingredient base. You’ve likely got your spicy pizza, your “Kitchen Sink” pizza, your veggie pizza … and these can all be created into different strombolis. A word of caution, though: if you make a stromboli identical in ingredients to a pizza, be sure to give the stromboli a different name. Unique names avoid confusing your kitchen crew and the customer.
I’m a big believer in cultivating a brand identity. I believe strongly in the customer having an experience at a restaurant rather than simply a meal. If you are simply ingesting a decent meal, why go out? If there is nothing special about eating at your restaurant, then you only survive if your food is a means of convenience rather than something your customer actually looks forward to. Tie the name of the stromboli to something unique, something that matters to you. Play with different flavors and land on something that is special.
I created the “Stromboliccio” a few years after we opened Andolini’s Pizzeria. Stromboliccio is the name of the small Island with a lighthouse off the island of Stromboli. I saw it when I visited Italy in 2007 and it was just a fantastic sight to see. We already served a full-sized stromboli, but we created a new miniature one — the Stromboliccio — that was perfect for lunch crowds. It sounds new and different to someone who knows a lot about pizza and stromboli, which often leads to them trying an item unique to them via my experience in Italy and Andolini’s Pizzeria.
Another note about stromboli: some locales are very food-conscious and ahead of the curve, while other customer bases need to be led. In 2005 when we opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, no one had ever sold stromboli in the area before. I found myself giving a sample piece to tables after they had ordered their meal. I took the samples after they had made their order decision but before their food arrived. This is the perfect time in the service sequence to introduce a new item to your customers and get a strong organic buzz going for it. Within months it became one of our top sellers and other local pizzeria chains started to sell stromboli, too.
I believe whole heartedly that being one step ahead in this industry leaves you in the ideal position for marketing, word of mouth and authenticity. Lead from the front this month with stromboli.
Mike Bausch owns and operates Andolini’s Pizzeria in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at International Pizza Expo.