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My attitude toward calzones boils down to this: Why eat a pizza that’s been rolled up into a blob? Okay, it’s not that simple. But it’s not that far off.

So this week, I endeavored to find out if my simplistic understanding of the calzone is unfair to the centuries-old baked turnover made with pizza dough. Most histories agree that the calzone dates back to the 1700s in Naples, Italy, and was intended as a food to eat on the go. Then I read this: “At this time, calzones were actually formed by simply folding an uncooked pizza in half before baking it.”


I chose two pizza-centric restaurants as contestants: Slice of the Burg in St. Pete and Buona Ristorante on St. Pete Beach.


Any restaurant in which an adorable 6-year-old girl initiates a staring contest with me from across the room is okay by me. After a few minutes of meeting Riley’s evil-eye challenge, I feigned defeat, and went over and chatted with her mom. It’s surprise encounters like these that help make restaurant visits memorable.

Slice of the Burg is wedged into a line of small eateries and shops in the Gateway Crossings shopping center in far northeast St. Pete. It was clean and well lit at 6:15 last Friday. We ordered at the counter: a Whole Calzone with peppers, onions, tomatoes and Italian sausage for a total of $24.98. I added a can of Modelo ($2.99). We had a seat at a red table.


When the server placed the calzone on the table, our first reaction was, “Whoa!” The thing was enormous. Held at the proper angle, it could’ve blotted out the sun. The beast was cut into four (enormous) pieces. The side of red sauce looked tiny sitting next to it. People from two tables over commented on how gigantuan the calzone was.

Texture and Taste

Try to refrain from wearing nice clothes when eating SotB’s calzone. It was greasy. But to the restaurant’s credit, it had a roll of paper towels within reach.

You must like cheese. A no-holds-barred quantity of mozzarella and fluffy ricotta were blended together, befitting this mondo-turnover. The vegetables were fresh and barely cooked — adding a pleasurably crisp contrast — and the sausage was tasty but not spicy. Importantly, the add-ons were spread throughout, so I didn’t run into large chunks of just cheese and pizza dough. The sauce was pleasingly on the sweet side.

Bonnie and I — mostly I — made a considerable dent in this calzone, but still brought a sizable chunk home. And somehow I left the restaurant without a single grease stain on my T-shirt.


At 6 p.m. on Monday, the weather was gorgeous, so we chose a table outside in a patio area in front of the place. Buona is located about a mile north of the Don Cesar in a Dolphin Village shopping center.

At intervals, we heard a man singing at a distance — solo, with great gusto, but badly. I couldn’t identify the type of music other than … strange. This intrusive soundtrack was annoying, but I can’t blame the restaurant, although I would have preferred a staring contest with an adorable 6-year-old.

Bonnie and I ordered a calzone with the same extras as SotB for a total of $20.36, but we had to add $1.25 for a side of red sauce.


This one was more attractive than SotB’s, but we’re grading on a curve because, let’s face it, calzones are intrinsically ugly. Buona’s version looked more rustic, more … Italian. It was also considerably smaller, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

Texture and Taste

I started with an end piece — easier to hold — and found mostly cheese and crust, which was not terribly satisfying. So I cut off a chunk in the middle and ate with a knife and fork.

The blend of flavors was gratifying, the veggies nicely crisp, the sausage adding moments of sharpness. The crust had a hint of crackle on the outside. The sauce skewed more acidic than sweet. And the calzone wasn’t greasy. Bonnie and I were able to finish most of it, except for a few cast-off end pieces with thick wads of cheese enveloped by crust.

And the Winner of the Clash of the Calzones Is …

Slice of the Burg.

A close call. I set aside my hours of poring over FFF’s sophisticated matrix of metrics and went with my gut on this one. The calzones had similar flavor profiles. Buona’s was more artisan, while SotB’s could’ve fed a table of four.

If there was a single deciding factor, it was that SotB’s calzone had its meat and vegetables spread throughout the inside, leaving virtually nothing to discard.

Ultimately, size didn’t matter much, but the whoah! factor at SotB induced a sudden frisson of delight that we’ll remember. And then there was the X factor: precocious Riley trying to stare me down.

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