Dictionaries simply describe tomato pie as a pizza-like food native to Italian-American culture, topped with tomato and served at room temperature.
But at many Trenton-area restaurants, including Palermo’s III in Ewing, the dish is much more than that. It’s a main attraction.
Palermo’s, located at 1292 Lower Ferry Road, makes its pie using thin-crust-dough bread topped with a smidgen of mozzarella, olive oil, special seasoning and of course, chunky tomato sauce.
“It’s what we’re known for,” said Vince Padalino and Vince Severino, two of the three owners along with Giulio Padalino.
Though fairly uncommon outside the region, the pies ($6.46 small) are a top seller at all three Palermo restaurants. The other two are located in Bordentown and Florence, in Burlington County.
A passion for cooking is a common bond among the proprietors of all Palermo’s restaurants, who are cousins. “We love to cook and satisfy people,” they said.
Owners Vince Padalino and Vince Severino both grew up in Belgium, while Giulio Padalino grew up in Italy. Working in a family business is something Vince Padalino always dreamed of doing.
“We have a great time and it ends up being a lot more fun,” he said. “We all multitask. We all make pies.”
It’s also quite a different experience from what some of their parents had to go through, they said. When they were kids, their parents would often have to leave home to find work, sometimes traveling great distances to find something that would keep food on the table.
But owning the restaurants keeps these three cousins together and close to their homes. Severino lives in Hamilton, while Vince Padalino and Giulio Padalino live in Lawrence.
Palermo’s III, the newest of the three eateries, opened in 2006. The cousins said they chose the latest location partly because it was close to home, and also because it gave them a good base from which to expand their market coverage.
“We thought [Ewing] looked like it needed a good pizza place and the college was around the corner,” he said. “We do have a great product and we needed somewhere to put it.”
College students aren’t the only clientele though. At any given time, the place is crowded with hungry families and professionals, they said.
Palermo’s III is open seven days a week and serves both lunch and dinner. The restaurant can accommodate around 68 people at a time.
A plain small pizza cost $6.45, a medium $8.45 and a large $9.45. But there are also plenty of gourmet varieties available in medium and large sizes, like Hawaiian pizza ($13.95 medium).
For lunch, customers can enjoy the assortment of wraps, paninis, sandwiches and appetizers. Items like Eggplant Parmigiana ($5.25), the Italian hot dog wrap with peppers, potatoes and mustard ($4.74) and pizza fries ($3.00) are just some examples of popular lunchtime dishes.
For dinner, customers can order seafood platters like breaded flounder, served with a soup or salad and fries ($12.95), or pasta selections like baked ziti with ricotta cheese ($9.95).
Take-out and catering are also provided. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information call (609)883-0700.