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  • Writer's pictureAdam Horvath

Panzarotti Ain't NoH JoHke!

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

If you’ve been following me on my socials, you recoginize I have some Jersey pride. I’m not saying I pee Bruce Springstein or poop Bon Jovi but I am definitely proud of my oft-maligned state. Especially the food, second to none in my humble Jersey arrogance. Our pizza is kinda legendary and I already wrote about our unique regional delicacies like The Texas Weiner, Sloppy Joe and Taylor Ham, the latter twice actually .(can't stop, won't stop) I’ve lived in both South Jersey and North Jersey; 6 of the 21 counties in fact, and I thought I had eaten all Jersey had to offer, but somehow I missed the panzarotti, made locally famous by the Tarantini family. They've been making their deep fried pockets of dough, bursting with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce with the same recipe since the 1960s. Imagine a Pizza Roll, but bigger and deep fried.

Oh You Mean A Fried Calzone?

I mean no, yea , well maybe. Here's the scoop. A panzerotti is native to Southern Italy (the heel of the boot) and is fried dough stuffed with cheese. The same food goes by calzoni fritti in the back alleys of Naples or as Luigi's in Park Slope Brooklyn calls it a, fried calzone. But only in Camden County New Jersey can you find a panzarotti, that's because the Tarantini's trademarked it. A little like McDowell's Big Mick right? I kid, I kid. Acually the Tarantini panzarotti is definitely not a calzone. First of all the shape resembles a knish more than a traditional calzone, and the dough, a secret family recipe, is thicker allowing it to fry to a golden, crispy bown without leaking any of melty, saucy goodness.

To paraphrase the tarantini website, Pauline the matriarch of the family learned how to make panzerotti from her mother at the age of seven. In 1960, she put that skill to work and began making her own panzarotti by hand, eventually selling them for 25 cents each from their quaint Camden home. Within a few years, popularity grew and what started off as a side hustle turned into a full fledge business. Pauline's sons went on to open brick and mortar restaurants dedicated to selling their family food. In 1971, Franco's Place opened in Westmont and later Vincent's in Merchantville. In addition to hoagies and wings, each location specializes in making The Original Panzarotti filled with mozzarella and any traditional pizza toppings.. They also make exotic insides like a gooey cheesesteak, cheesy buffalo chicken and during Thanksgiving, a Gobbler filled with turkey and stuffing with a gravy dipping sauce. Meanwhile, The Tarantini Panzarotti, now in their fourth generation, continues to distribute throughout Greater Philadelphia, South Jersey and more recently into Florida.

I teased this story on the Facebook group on South Jersey Food Scene not knowing what to expect. Post after post, people were telling stories of their childhood memories like stopping off at Franco's for a crispy treat before taking the train into Philly. Others talking about Friday being the family meal night at Vincents. This is not just a delicious tasting Italian American treat, its a family recipe that started off in Brindisi Italy nearly a century ago and continues to live on in homes throughout South Jersey. Next time you take a trip to Philly for a cheesesteak, save a little space in your belly and head over the Delaware for an authentic Jersey treat.

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Dec 06, 2023

Where are they located in Florida. They HAD a mail order years ago but discontinued it.


Dec 06, 2023

Great review, I love Franco’s.

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