Roma Sausage & Deli is an Italian provisions store on the edge of a dicey section of Utica, New York. Inside, one can find just about anything for a hearty meal: homemade sausages, meatballs, sauce, imported cheeses and cold cuts as well as made to order submarine sandwiches, locally made cheese curds and justly famous tomato pie.
I’ve been eating tomato pie for as long as I can remember. It’s a local specialty most often found at bakeries, pizza shops and in stores like Roma Sausage. It does look similar to a Sicilian slice, but I think it has more in common with Rhode Island bakery pizza strips. It doesn’t come with toppings or mozzarella cheese and is almost always served room temp or just a bit warmer. The crust and sauce tend to differ slightly at each place. Of the countless versions I’ve had over the years, Roma’s is the best. A crust that is chewy, crispy and full of flavor, like a really good focaccia, chunky, sweet tomato sauce and a liberal dusting of romano cheese, this tomato pie is one of the few foods that I never, ever tire of eating. One would be well served to call ahead as Roma closes in the early afternoon and has been known to run out of pies an hour or two before closing.
As it is a grocery/provisions store, Roma’s doesn’t have any seating, so if you want to tear into your sub sandwich or put away a few slices, do what I do: dine al fresco on the hood of your (or in my case, your mom’s car!) Of all of the times I have been to Roma, I have yet to put a box of tomato pie in the car fully intact. It’s just too good to resist; and the funny thing is that I have gotten countless looks and knowing nods from other people walking out with their pies getting ready to do the exact same thing. The pies come in half sheets (24 slices) and single slices. To be honest, I have yet to try anything else, as I can’t break away from the pies, but I would go out of my way and alter my schedule to come here any chance I can get.
The Boilermaker 15K Road Race has been on the second Sunday in July since 1977 and the Utica community comes out in full force to watch it and cheer on their friends and family, as well as thousands of strangers running by. Roma’s is just off of the race route and countless people wait in line to stock up on tomato pies, subs and much more for their race day viewing parties. If you happen to be in the area that weekend, stop in, get yourself a classic taste of Utica, NY with some tomato pies, grab a few lawn chairs and take in one of the premier 15K races in the USA!
UPDATE: I visited Roma’s second location at 3921 Oneida Street New Hartford, NY for the first time back in September, 2013 and had an excellent half sheet of tomato pie that was just as good as the Bleecker Street original. I made it back on Sunday July 12, 2015, just hours after I ran the Boilermaker 5K Race. I picked up another half sheet of pie and mentioned to the woman behind the counter that I had heard the recipe had changed and that they were cutting half sheets into 12 instead of 24 slices. She said that they haven’t changed the recipe at all but that they had hired a couple of new guys a while back and that there may have been a few “off batches” when they first started.
Happy to hear that, I took my pie out to the car and commenced dining “a la car hood”. This tomato pie was definitely in the same style and the chunky, sweet sauce, grated cheese & herbs and the chewy, slightly crispy crust were just as good if not better than any I have had in the past from Roma’s. I spent the next 24 hours putting a good dent in this pie as a late night snack and for breakfast the next morning, though I did manage to share some of it with my uncle and his girlfriend!