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Festival of Slice returns to celebrate Niagara Falls pizza this Saturday

courtesy Destination Niagara USA

Had your fill of Thanksgiving turkey over the holiday weekend? Be sure to make some room for pizza - Niagara Falls pizza, in particular. The second-annual Festival of Slice is coming to the Cataract City this coming Saturday.

Planners and pizzerias vow they'll be better prepared. Last year's inaugural event, which was introduced as part of the Jingle Falls USA holiday celebration, proved to be an instant success.

Actually, a little too successful. The overwhelming demand resulted in a crowded Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, and pizza vendors scrambling to keep up with the visitors' appetites.

"We sent eight trays in the beginning, but we figured it wasn't really going to be used," said Angelo Vilardo, assistant manager at Goodfellas Pizzeria, one of last year's participants. "It went, within not even the first hour. It was a Friday night, too, so we were rushing to get more pizza there. It was a little tough for us."

Tough perhaps, but also a testament to the loyalty Goodfellas and many other locally- and family-owned pizzerias enjoy in Niagara Falls. Nineteen local pizzerias from the city and other Niagara County communities, two more than last year, are scheduled to participate in this year's event.

"Niagara Falls really has a lot of different Sicilian-style pizza, really doughy, and I like that," said Susan Swiatkowski, tourism development manager for Destination Niagara USA. "I know other places like a thin-crust pizza. We have a lot of different things that are being entered into the Festival of Slice this year."

In anticipation of another brisk turnout, planners have found a larger venue. This year's Festival of Slice has been moved just a short walk away from the Culinary Institute, located inside the former Rainbow Centre shopping mall, into the Conference and Event Center on Old Falls Street.

Admission is free. Once inside, customers will purchase one-dollar tickets which are redeemable for samples. Swiatkowski estimates most folks should feel satisfied after spending about ten dollars.

Both festival planners and participating vendors are expecting another hungry crowd.

"Hopefully, I think, being on a Saturday, maybe everyone has a day off, so we'll get a bigger turnout," Vilardo said.

The Festival of Slice will run from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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