October is National Pizza Month, and Berks County Eats is celebrating by visiting some of our area’s best pizzerias all month long.
I would be willing to bet that most Berks Countians have never heard of tomato pie. Far fewer are likely to have tried it.
Tomato pie is most popular in Philadelphia and the western suburbs where Corropolese Bakery & Deli has spent more than 90 years perfecting this unique dish.
For Berks Countians, good tomato pie is closer than you may realize. Corropolese operates a location in the Douglassville Shopping Center, just off Routes 422 and 662.
The Douglassville location offers everything that the other three locations (Norristown, Lansdale and Limerick) offer: carved-to-order deli meats, fresh-baked pastries and cupcakes and loaves of specialty breads.
But the big draw is their famed tomato pie, which has earned “Best of Montgomery County” accolades multiple times.
If we mapped it out on a family tree, tomato pie would be pizza’s distant cousin, the one that only shows up once or twice a year at family gatherings.
The similiarities are obvious. Tomato pie and pizza are both layered dishes that start with a crust, tomato sauce and cheese. But in a lot of ways, Corropolese’s tomato pie is the antithesis of pizza.
One key difference is how you eat it. Pizza is best when it’s fresh out of the oven. The hotter, the better. With a tomato pie, there’s nothing wrong with eating it warm, but it’s a dish best served cold.
When we went to the counter to place our order, there was a quarter-sheet already boxed and waiting for pick-up. (Pies are served in two sizes: full sheets with 32 slices and quarter-sheets with eight). No heat lamp. No warm-up in the oven. We just took our box, headed out the door and ate it as it was.
Another similarity is the crust. The crust on the pie is thick, like a Sicilian pizza but with a softer texture. One of the comments I read on a review site described it as “spongey.” I would describe more like the consistency of a soft pretzel — crisp on the outside and a little doughy on the inside.
Corropolese offers several variations of the tomato pie, some that more closely resemble a pizza than others, but the original “red” has just two toppings: tomato sauce and Romano cheese.
On a traditional pizza, tomato sauce is more of an after thought, a thin layer that provides a little color and some flavor. On the tomato pie, the sauce is everything. It’s layered on thick, much thicker than a pizza, with a flavor that more closely resembles spaghetti sauce.
I can’t explain the physics behind it, but somehow the sauce manages to maintain a semi-solid form, never running off the crust even after several bites.
The last ingredient in Corropolese’s tomato pie is Parmesan cheese. There’s no shredded cheese, no fresh mozzarella, just a liberal sprinkling of grated Parmesan. It provides just a hint of flavor, and that’s all it needs to do. This is, after all, a tomato pie. And that’s the most important part.
Corropolese is not a place to go if you’re looking for a sit-down meal. There are no seats inside so after we paid our $8.00 at the counter (the pie was only $4.50, but we had two sodas as well), we took the pie to the car to enjoy.
I suppose on a nicer day, you could set up a picnic blanket on the grassy median in front of the shopping center, but your best bet is to take your tomato pie home with you.
What you take home will be something that you won’t find anywhere else in Berks County. Tomato pie may never grow to become as popular as pizza, but everyone should try it at least once.
And Corropolese does it better than anyone.