Daily Slice: Tomato Pie from Serpe Bakery, Wilmington, DE
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Ever since I've started writing about Philadelphia tomato pie (which is different from New Haven and Trenton tomato pie) here on Slice, there's been a lot of controversy about whether it's a Philly thing. I assumed it was since no one outside of Philly I'd ever met had ever heard of eating cold, cheese-less squares of pizza from a bakery.
Just like all the folks from Utica, Rhode Island, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts who probably think bakery pizza originated in their corner of the world, it turns out this old-school, bakery style, no-cheese pizza thing exists in little pockets all over the country, with slight variations, different names, and loyal fans convinced their spot is the best and/or the original. And while I was busy googling Scachatta—a cold square pizza style that's been in Tampa since at least 1912—I missed one that's practically right under my nose, half an hour away in Wilmington, where they call it "Delaware Tomato Pie".
Serpe's is an old-school Italian Bakery all the way, with a line of locals waiting at the door for them to open at 7am for coffee and donuts. They do all sorts of pastries and cakes, along with bread that I'm assuming ends up at some of the awesome looking old steak and sub shops we drove past on the way there, making it hard to stay on task with the tomato pie.
Serpe's tomato pie is the real deal, as good as or maybe even better than your average Philly bakery. The dough color and soft texture are identical to the Philly-style, and slices are medium thick with a nice, fresh tasting red sauce that's sweet but not ridiculously so. The big difference is the lack of and Parm or Romano shaken on top, and the inclusion of garlic slivers in the sauce. Neither pungent and raw, nor roasted, they were most likely sauteed beforehand or cooked in the sauce. Either way an awesome twist on something familiar.
It's definitely a little bit pricier than Philly at $24.00 for a full sheet—but totally worth it, up there with some of the best I've had so far. Black Lab Breads is another tomato pie spot in Wilmington that I'll have to check out next time, along with a few of Serpe's stuffed breads, one of those sub shops, and whatever hidden tomato pie spots I missed.
Serpe & Sons Bakery
About the author: Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.