Calzone at Cuzzos--photo by David Hammond

My Italian grandmother used to make what she called “calzone.” It was a pie, with top and bottom crust, filled with breadcrumbs and sausage, usually with a single hard-cooked egg in the center.

On a recent visit to Cuzzo’s Pasta, Pizza, Panini and More (330 W. Madison), I ordered a calzone, which is on their secret menu: I couldn’t find it on print or online menus; you need to ask for it.

What I received is what is commonly understood to be a calzone: a hand pie, a circular piece of dough, folded over on itself to form a crescent, filled with cheese, sauce and usually other ingredients like sausage and veg, and finally baked. It’s like a folded pizza.

At the Taste of Melrose Park, which for the past decade I’ve been encouraging readers to visit, there’s traditionally been a panzerotti vendor. This vendor and his family turn out panzerotti that seem exactly like what others call calzones. So, what’s the difference?

Hand pies are made around the world: in much of Latin America, they’re called empanadas; in Wales (and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), they’re called pasties; in Indonesia, they’re panadas; in India, samosas, and on and on.

But why, in Italy, is there apparently no consensus on what this hand pie is called? And is there any real difference between calzones and panzerotti. Peter Francis Battaglia of The Food Obsession blog told me:

Regional terminology is the difference…Calzones are from the Napoli area; Panzerotti are from the Puglia region…Panzerotti are usually smaller and can be fried or baked. Calzones are usually larger than a panzerotti, and they can also be fried or baked. Fillings can be varied. Calzones usually are ricotta-based; panzerotti fillings are usually tomato, mozzarella or Pugliese cheese, and basil. To further confuse, in Naples, “panzerotti” is the word for potato croquettes.

So, whatever we choose to call it, how was the “calzone” at Cuzzo’s? I bought two (ham/pepper and pepperoni/onion); you can have your calzone filled with any of the ingredients that Cuzzo’s would ordinarily put on their pizzas. Two calzones turned out to be too much for the two of us to eat in one sitting. They’re big. The bread that enclosed the ingredients was particularly good; Cuzzo’s makes all their dough, for calzones and pizza, in house, which is laudable. Of the two, the pepperoni/onion had much more flavor.

Overall, we both enjoyed the calzone we had for lunch; it was like eating pizza sandwiches. They’re made to order, so they come out as freshly baked bread, stuffed, and although we liked the bread, the mass of bread overwhelmed the flavors of cheese, sausage and other “toppings” that were put inside. Still, this was an enjoyable lunch.

So, what was that pie my grandmother used to make? Alas, it neatly fits the definition for neither calzone nor panzerotti, but our Genoese family called this pocket pie a calzone. Whatever we call it, though, it was one of the most memorable foods of my childhood.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...