A calzone, for anyone who doesn't know, is basically a portable pizza with far more cheese than a typical slice. It's a popular alternative to pizza in New York and should not be confused with its cousin food, the stromboli. The big question is this: with the existence of pizza, how, and why, did the need arise to have a pizza that was more portable? Wouldn't a regular slice, complete with a plate and an extra napkin or two, be sufficient? To figure this out, we need to go all the way back to the 18th century.


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More commonly the calzone is known as an inside-out pizza due to the fact that the crust is on the outside and everything else is inside. There's nothing wrong with this, by any means, and many other countries have their own twists on stuff dough. The empanada, for one, is a brilliant creation that's fried with tons of meaty goodness inside. A pierogi or a dumpling are two more genius creations, both of which are filled with delicious fillings. So, how did the rise of the calzone become so ingrained in Italian restaurants today? It all started in Naples, Italy.

An Original Street Food

It's said that Naples, Italy is also where the first pizza was ever made, and it looked quite a bit different than it does today. Those who visit can still try original Naples-style pizza, though, and we're sure it has converted many an American pizza lover. The calzone, on the other hand, was created out of a need that was entirely different. Not only was the intention behind this food to be something that could be made and sold easily, but it was also designed to walk. In other words, it was a food that people could literally grab and go. Just like the original pizza, calzones were nothing like they are today.

The first calzones that were ever made were much smaller because they would be eaten on the way to work or as quick lunch midday. Therefore, the giant calzones that exist today weren't only non-existent, but they also weren't an Italian creation - they're actually the Americanized version of the original, much smaller, calzone. The point of these miniature calzones was that a fork and a knife were unnecessary in order to eat one, and the mess they made would be nothing compared to a slice of pizza.

The ingredients of the first calzones, along with the cooking method of them, were specific to the nature of their eating, as well. There were no fancy ingredients because a) this would price them out of many people's budgets in the 1700s and b) they were kept simple as street food. This was yet another difference that came about when the first calzone made its way to America. Fun fact: the calzone means 'trouser' in Italian, which is in reference to the fact that it could be eaten while a person was walking. Talk about a type of street food that's true to its meaning in both name and purpose!

The American Calzone

As with many things that come to the U.S., they're sometimes completely transformed by the time they've made it into most restaurants around the country. The calzone is no different, but that doesn't mean the changes were necessarily bad. As opposed to being simple street food, calzones became incorporated into the regular menus of many Italian restaurants. Here, they underwent several changes. For starters, the size of the calzone was changed, making them up to three times the size of what they originally were in Naples. The cooking method remained the same despite this, with uncooked dough getting a hefty filling before one side got flipped over to the other, sealed, and baked off.

The second major change was the addition of ingredients. Just as pizza toppings changed and took off around the world, the ingredients that were stuffed into a calzone changed, and most would say for the better. Additions of things such as olive oil, oregano and other herbs, and cheese blends were added. Eventually, calzones took on the flavor profiles of pizza, with meat lovers and veggies lovers versions also appearing on many menus. In some restaurants, the customer has the ability to customize their calzone, requesting ingredients specific to their own tastes. In recent decades, calzones have become even more popular and, funny enough, Seinfeld is partially to thank for this after the show featured them prominently.

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