WESTFIELD, NJ — Over 200 people participated in the Westfield YMCA's second annual Pizza Palooza Sunday. This year nine local pizzerias donated their pizza and time to the event: Buona Pizza, Casa di Pizza, Di Farina, Ferraro’s, Gennaro’s, La Casa, Roma, Rudy’s and Randazzo’s were from Garwood and Westfield, two of the four towns the Westfield YMCA serves. (Cranford and Mountainside are the other two.)
Pizza Palooza required each participant to try a slice from each contributing pizza shop and vote on who they believed had the best-tasting pie. Roma took home first place in the contest. Last year's first place winner, Buona Pizza, came in second and Casa Di Pizza came in third.
“We never turn anyone away for financial reasons here at the Y,” said Sharon London, YMCA assistant aquatic director, and event coordinator. The Westfield YMCA, like all YMCAs, provides financial assistance for individuals who want to become members but cannot afford to. London explained, “The Pizza Palooza helps towards that program.”
No specific criteria were given to tasters other than to choose their favorite. Jane Laitman had a sentimental approach to judging.
“I am going to vote for Buona pizza because it taste like the pizza I ate growing up,” Laitman said.
The Manescu family explained why they thought Buona Pizza should win.
“The pizza has a nice mixture of sauce and cheese, and the spices added are good,” Miron Manescu said.
Husband and wife Dan Glazer and Michele Higgins came with a decision already in mind.
“Gennaro’s has the best sauce,” said Higgins, adding, “I usually vote for them with money.”
Glazer said he would vote for Gennaro's for “the combination of the crust and the seasoning.”
The event was considered a huge success, surprising organizers after only 85 people had pre-registered. Most of the participants registered the day of, with some tasters traveling from as far away as Bayonne. The group from Bayonne consisted of eight high school students and, while Buona had a lot buzz among the participants, all eight of them chose the eventual winner, Roma Pizza.