The battle for the nation’s best pizza has raged for years. While New York and New Jersey are typically at the top of that list, communities all throughout the country are continuously vying for who can serve up the best slice. However, residents of Trenton know that the best of the best can be found right here in the Capital City. If you’re from Trenton or the surrounding areas, chances are you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a taste of Trenton tomato pie. This distinct style of pizza is local to the area but has made waves throughout the nation for its crunchy crust, distinct look, and of course, remarkable taste. But where did the Trenton tomato pie get its start?
The journey of the Trenton tomato pie starts over 4,000 miles away in the town of Naples, Italy. Much like the city today, Trenton was a destination for immigrants in search of their American dream. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Neapolitan workers departed from Italy and settled in the Chambersburg section of the Capital City. They were drawn to Trenton due to the abundance of factory jobs and settled with the hopes of building a life for themselves and their families. With them came an influx of Italian culture and cuisine, bringing authentic European flavor to the streets of Trenton.
Trenton tomato pie first took shape in 1910, when at the age of 15, Giuseppe “Joe” Papa began making pizzas for Joe Silvestro of Joe’s Tomato Pies. Joe’s was known for its crispy pizza with light cheese and its signature crushed tomatoes on top. Inspired by his work at Joe’s, Joe Papa opened the doors to his own pizza shop, the iconic Papa’s Tomato Pies. Despite its many evolutions and location changes, since the store has been continuously running since its opening days, Papa’s Tomato Pie has won the title of the oldest tomato pie restaurant in the nation.
So what makes a tomato pie different from your standard pizza? As the name would imply, it’s all about the tomatoes. While an average pizza typically puts cheese on top of the sauce, the tomato pie features tomatoes on top, creating a totally new flavor sensation in the process. Tomato pie also typically features a thin, crispy crust to compliment the bold flavor of tomatoes and gooey cheese. Although there’s no one right or wrong way to make a tomato pie, over the years, many have tried their hand at mastering this delightful dish.
After the emergence of Papa’s Tomato Pies, a number of other establishments quickly made their way onto the scene. One such establishment was Delorenzo’s, which first opened its doors in 1947. Although Delorenzo’s has since expanded to Hamilton, Robbinsville, and Yardley, their roots began right here on Hudson Street. For decades, Delorenzo’s operated in the Capital City, serving up their own take on the Trenton tomato pie. Other notable establishments include Schuster’s, inventors of the mustard pie. Thanks to the innovative creations of Trenton’s top chefs, foodies from all over the world have traveled to our city to try what many would consider the world’s greatest pizza pie.
For decades, Trentonians have argued over which tomato pie reigns superior, but one thing is for certain; we are immensely proud of this iconic regional specialty. Although many of the community’s beloved pizza joints have since moved into neighboring suburbs, Trenton still proudly holds the title of home to the tomato pie. The gastronomic greatness of our community reigns to this day, so let us raise a slice of Trenton’s most delicious creation.