We attended the John DeBella Tomato Fest at Cooper House Restaurant at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken today. It was held between 12:00-4:00PM.
The event was free and featured all the tomato pie you could eat from several renowned tomato pie purveyors in the area. Tomato pie is one of my favorite things. Free tomato pie? EVEN BETTER!
There were also many tomato-centric contests and activities being held throughout the day, but we went for the tomato pie and to check out the Cooper House Beer Garden which is really quite lovely; a wonderful addition to the new restaurant and for the park.
🍅 Tony Roni’s
Tony Roni’s has several Philly area locations, but this was my first experience with them. The tomato pie is a good basic, entry-level tomato pie. Very mild tomato flavor, light crispy square crust and a little parmesan cheese on top. They claim to be “Philly’s best tomato pie,” but I just don’t think that it is. Sorry.
🍅 Corropolese Bakery
Norristown, PA-based Corropolese is my favorite tomato pie, hands down. I love how thick and sweet their tomato sauce is. I can’t get it anywhere in South Jersey so it really excited me that they were taking part in the Tomato Fest on this side of the bridge. I usually have to get it at Di Bruno Bros at the Franklin. They told me they are working on it becoming available in South Jersey. I hope it happens sooner rather than later. It’s top notch tomato pie.
🍅 Carlino’s Market
OK, stop the presses. I just said that Corropolese was my favorite tomato pie ever. HOWEVER, Main Line-based Carlino’s Market is a super close second now. Talk about flavor, this tomato pie has so much of it. Along with chunky tomatoes (sooo good), there’s also garlic and fresh basil. It’s not a traditional tomato pie as far I’m concerned, but I really, really love their spin on it. It also represented the the best balance of sweet and savory among the selections today. The crust was also very focaccia-like; soft and chewy, yet sturdy. I really dig that. Highly recommend checking out Carlino’s tomato pie if you haven’t already.
🍅 Gennaro’s Tomato Pie
South Philly-based Gennaro’s Tomato Pie is different in that it is more of a traditional round, thin-crust pizza. The sauce is also significantly less sweet than the others, more on the savory side. It’s a good pie, but did not get my vote today.
🍅 Gaeta’s Famous Tomato Pie
I’m always skeptical when a business boasts they are “famous” at what they do. Famous with who? Anyways, after trying Northeast Philly-based Gaeta’s I can understand why they call it famous tomato pie. It’s close to Corropolese quality. Sweeter sauce, chewy crust. A really, really good traditional tomato pie in my humble opinion. My 3rd favorite of the event. I would eat their famous pie again… and again!
🍅 Holy Tomato Pies
Much like Gennaro’s, Holy Tomato Pies — based out of Blackwood, NJ — also serves round, thin-crust tomato pie. They also add a few sprinkles of mozzarella cheese on top of the tomato sauce which makes it look more reminiscent of a regular pizza slice. It was good, but I’m firmly in the square, thick-crust camp when it comes to tomato pie.
🍅 DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pie
There’s tomato pie and then there is “Trenton tomato pie.” I’ll be honest, prior to today, I would have never been able to tell you the difference as I’ve never had Trenton tomato pie before. I heard about DeLorenzo’s by friends who grew up in Central Jersey and swear by it. It was always on my list to try; so I was glad to see them at the Tomato Fest today. I have a feeling that the samples we had today are not the best representation of Trenton tomato pie. Like Gennaro’s and Holy Tomato, it’s a round crust pie, however the crust is much thicker than theirs. The sauce seemed more on the savory side, too. Totally acceptable pie, but as mentioned before, I like the sauce sweeter and the crust thick and square. So they did not get my vote.
So, who got my vote? Believe it or not, Carlino’s did. Corropolese is still my #1 in my heart when it comes to traditional tomato pie, but I have to hand it to Carlino’s — their version really takes tomato pie to another level. I loved the chunky tomatoes, garlic and basil. Mmmm.
Cooper House Beer Garden
The beer garden at Cooper House Restaurant is a great outdoor space complete with picnic tables, Adirondack chairs (not pictured), pergola, lots of greenery, and a spectacular view of Cooper River.
I did not get a picture of the bar on this trip; we’ll go back and do a better feature on it in the future, but they offer quite a few beers on tap including local craft beers such as Double Nickel Brewing based in Pennsauken. It’s the perfect spot to sit and hang with friends drinking great beer and playing a game of giant Jenga.
The Tomato Fest needs to be an annual event at Cooper River Park. It is the perfect spot for it! The event was well planned and well run. Hello free tomato pie? However, I do think they should invite food trucks or other vendors next time. Definitely invite some local farmers so people can take home some Jersey Fresh tomatoes.
Either way, it was fun and I’m glad we went. Thanks to all of the vendors who participated, for WMGK for hosting it, the sponsors, Cooper House, and Camden County government. You should pat yourselves on the back for collaborating on a great and very tasty event!
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.