While scanning my Facebook Timeline the other day, I noticed a friend’s post sharing an announcement that Romano’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Essington will be featured on the Travel Channel. Reading the rest of the post, I was surprised to learn that Romano’s is the originator of the Stromboli sandwich. I was totally unaware of this, although Romano’s history has been well-publicized with features and articles by Alicia Vitarelli on the Action News at 4 food segment and Philly.com (Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News). Even Wikipedia recognizes Romano’s as the earliest originator of Stromboli. So… curiousity piqued, I contacted Romano’s through its Facebook page for more information. Peter Philip Romano, Jr. responded, very generously sharing the story of the Stromboli and these wonderful photos of Romano’s over the years. Not only is Romano's the originator of the Stromboli, it is also the oldest family owned and operated Pizzeria/Italian restaurant in Delaware County. This family operated business is now in its 4th generation since opening in 1944. Patriarch and founder, Nazzareno Romano, emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1923. Nazzareno, “Nat”, was active in the resistance against Benito Mussolini, founder of fascism and leader of Italy from 1922 to 1943, and had to leave Italy after Mussolini became Prime Minister in October 1922. A stone mason by trade, Nat worked on several projects in the Philadelphia area including Villanova University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. During the depression, beginning in 1935 as a way to make money, he made and sold pizzas out of a wagon cart along Washington Street in South Philadelphia. A relative, “Big Uncle”, owned the old Boston Bakery that was on the corner of 20th & Sigel Street. Nat would make square pies with a cooked marinara sauce and no cheese. These pies were called "South Philly Tomato Pie". In 1944, Nat moved to Delaware County with his two children, Ceil and Pete, (his wife, Josephine, died during the depression) and took up an apartment with the children and another family. It was at this time that he opened his first business, the Essington Pizzeria, featuring his Tomato Pies. This building still stands three doors from the corner of Rt. 291 and Rt. 420 (Wanamaker Ave) in Essington. In the winter of 1949-1950, Nat began to experiment with a new sandwich, filling his secret recipe dough with a variety of Italian meats, bell peppers and cheeses that he then rolled into a log and baked. He began to produce and sell the as-yet-unnamed sandwiches in early 1950. During this time, a local resident and regular customer, William Schoefield, asked Nat what he called this new sandwich. Nat admitted that he didn’t have a name for it and invited Mr. Schoefield to suggest one. This was 1950 and the press was full of the scandal involving Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini who had become romantically involved during the filming of the movie Stromboli. Moral outrage ensued when Bergman left her husband and daughter for Rosselini and bore a son out of wedlock. Influenced by the international scandal and publicity, Mr. Schoefield suggested, "Why don't you call it ...Stromboli?" and the name stuck! Nat operated the store in its original location until 1954 when he opened shop in his second building, on the corner of 3rd and Wanamaker Avenue, two blocks from the original store. This one he built himself and/or acted as his own general contractor. It was here that the business was dubbed Romano's and operated as a pizzeria and Italian restaurant. Following the death of Nazzareno Romano in 1963, Peter P. Romano Sr. became the sole owner of Romano's. Peter continued the same tradition and menu as his father, but expanded the Stromboli choices from the "originals” (sweet, hot, and pepperoni) adding the "special" Stromboli in a regular and jumbo size. This Stromboli offers six different meats, including: prosciuttino, pepperoni, genoa salami, cappacola, cotteghino, and boiled ham. Romano’s is located at 246 Wanamaker Ave, Essington.
Serving the city of Essington and surrounding locations
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