Tomato pie is a Philly staple
by Chris Malloy
Tomato pie, a Philly staple, is usually made here with bread dough, without mozzarella, at old-time bakeries in longstanding neighborhoods.
The giant rectangular pie at Sarcone’s Bakery is an 18-by-22½-inch crust that is red with tomato sauce, nut-brown on the naked rim, sprinkled with Parmesan, and cut into 15 equally appealing squares. Almost everyone in Philly has a favorite piece. The choices are corner, middle, or side.
“Corner,” says Louis Sarcone Jr., fourth-generation owner. “I like the crust, so I like the corner slice.”
“Middle or end,” says Vincent Iannelli, third-generation owner of Iannelli’s Famous Brick Oven Bakery. Here, the choice can be easier. The 18-by-24-inch “gravy pie” (old-timers use names like church pie, square pizza, red pizza, granny pizza, and red pie) is halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise three times for a total of eight colossal slices. With a pie divided like this, there are no crust-less middle pieces. But you still get the soft, gravy-soaked bites that are the reason to choose middle in the first place.