How do you get a few thousand people to show up at the Stow-Munroe Fall High School commons/cafeteria on a chilly, snowy Sunday?

There’s no football being broadcast. And this is a booze-free event — it's a school after all.

You throw a Pizza Palooza party, offering cheap slices of pizza from 13 area shops vying to win awards.

“We’ve had about 3,000 people here today, more than any other year,” said volunteer Gary Aleman as the third annual event was wrapping up on Sunday. It's organized by the Stow-Munroe Falls Community Foundation to benefit student programs in the district.

Smells of cheese, pepperoni and sauce permeated the air of the commons as the shops served up hundreds of slices, with workers bringing in more and more boxes of pizza as the three-hour event wore on.

Patrons paid $1 a slice (with $1 tickets being sold in bunches of 10) and got to cast ballots for People’s Choice.

Without further ado, here’s the scoop — slice? — on the top pies.

The People's Choice Award went to a new kid on the Stow block: Master Pizza, at 4437 Kent Road, in a former optical shop in the Acme Plaza. It opened less than two weeks ago and is the first Summit County location for the chain, which began in a Mayfield Heights shop (still going strong) in 1955.

The Judges’ Choice award went to Altieri’s, the oldest pizza shop in Stow, which opened in 1965. Last year the shop, at 3291 Kent Road west of state Route 91, was bought by its longtime manager, Matt Barkis of Cuyahoga Falls.

The younger set got to vote for Kids' Choice, which for the third year in a row went to Pizza Hut.

Most of the competing shops served more than one kind of pizza, with People's Choice ballots being cast for the establishment. The shops chose which type to serve the judges — yes, I was one, suffering all the way (NOT!) on this assignment. The other judges were Stow Mayor John Pribonic; Jerad Zibritosky, president of the foundation's board of directors; and Cyle Feldman, athletic director of Stow-Munroe Falls high school.

Altieri’s won the Judge’s Choice for its Riconi pizza, a new addition to the menu. That’s Riconi as in ricotta cheese and pepperoni. I had barely bitten into it and was wowed. It reminded me of pizza I ate (and ate, and ate) in Italy last summer. (Yeah, I was a lucky gal getting to go to that culinary heaven.)

In addition to ricotta cheese, the Riconi features provolone and pecorino Romano, as well as three types of pepperoni: Old World, crumbled and traditional.

The Old World pepperoni has a more pungent flavor, and Barkis noted it curls into cups, unlike traditional pepperoni.

Other pizzas that got high ratings from the judges included Teresa’s Pizza’s “Pig Out” topped with ham, pepperoni and sausage. The Stow Teresa’s, at 4161 Steels Pointe Drive, is owned by Carley and Bill Kruse of Kent. It’s part of the 11-store Northeast Ohio chain that started in 1969.

Pony Express' Reuben pizza (yeah, you read that right) is not on the menu right now, but the shop hopes to offer it in March for St. Patrick’s Day and possibly permanently. Pony Express, which began in 1978 and is owned by the Leone family, is at 3031 Graham Road in Stow, in the Crossroads at Fishcreek.

While pizza is the start of Pizza Palooza, the event includes inflatables for the kiddies and other food. 2 Girls Café and Bakery at 3707 Darrow Road in Stow brought samples of egg salad and pulled pork with coleslaw, which were devoured.

The café/bakery moved to its current spot in 2017. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is co-owned by friends Sandra Biddle and Cherie Schrengaue.

 

A&Ws in area

I failed to dot my A's and cross my W's when I wrote about the local A&W restaurants in last week’s column. I told readers that the Tallmadge A&W, which is up for sale, was the last one in the area.

Oh my, I got calls and emails informing me that there are A&W drive-ins still going strong in Kent and Ravenna.

So how did I make the mistake? In writing the column item about the Tallmadge drive-in, I used A&W corporate’s online locator map to look for others in Northeast Ohio. A glitch in the map caused me to locate only those in central Ohio. I forgot about the Kent location, at 1124 W. Main St. (state Route 59) as well as the Ravenna one, at 769 E. Main St.

One of those who called me is Kevin Roen, 56, who manages the family-owned A&W in Kent. Roen’s father, Vernon, who is 95, brought the brand to the Akron area, opening the Ravenna location in 1956, the Kent one in 1957 and the Tallmadge one in the mid-1960s.

Today, the Roen family owns the one in Kent, having sold the Ravenna drive-in last year and the Tallmadge one in 2001 to the couple that is now trying to sell it.

Kevin’s brother, Ted, retired as manager of the Ravenna store last year. Kevin, who served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force, said these days, his father “is happy with just having the one store.”

Kevin Roen’s mother, Lila, who died in 1983, came up with her own recipe for coney sauce that the family still uses.

The Kent stand, like other A&Ws, makes its own root beer. Floats, fried battered cheese curds and Coney dogs are among the most popular items. It will open for the season Feb. 27.

The Tallmadge property actually is no longer an A&W. Its owners let their franchise expire last year. The chain was founded in 1919, making it the oldest fast-food company in the world, according to its current owners, A Great American Brand LLC.

 

Soup's on (almost)

Akron’s popular Empty Bowl event will be on St. Patrick’s Day this year. It’s set for 1 to 3 p.m. March 17 at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St. in downtown Akron.

The event, which usually sells out, is a fundraiser for the Good Samaritan Hunger Center in Akron, and will feature soups from eight local restaurants (a list was not available before press time), breads, desserts and nonalcoholic drinks. Students from the Steel Academy in Akron will provide entertainment.

The $50 tickets include bowls made by local ceramic artists, including Drew Ippoliti and those involved with University of Akron Myers School of Art, Ohio’s Ceramic Supply, Tiny Cloud Pottery and Tindercraft Ceramics.

For tickets and more information, go to goodsamaritanhungercenter.org.

The center provides hot meals and operates food pantries in Akron. It also provides weekend meal packs for students at Findley elementary school in Akron and Steel Academy.

 

Burgers to breakfast

Twiisted Burgers and Sushi in Medina is adding breakfast service in the wake of the closing of nearby Eat'n Park.

In a news release, Twiisted owner Christopher Pappas said he has hired 13 Eat'n Park staffers and expects to add five to seven more to cover the expanded hours. Breakfast will be served 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lunch and dinner menus will be served beginning at 11 a.m.

Eat'n Park is scheduled to close Feb. 17 and Twiisted's breakfast hours begin the next day. Twiisted is at 985 Boardman Alley in Medina; see www.twiisted.com.

 

Reminders

• Wine, Cheese & Chocolate, Darling returns to the Akron Civic Theatre at 7 p.m. Feb. 9. More than 45 different wines will be featured, paired with cheese and chocolate from local purveyors.

Cost is $45. Attendees must be at least 21 years old. Last year's debut event was a sellout. Tickets are available by calling 330-253-2488 or visiting www.akroncivic.com. The Civic is at 182 S. Main St. in downtown Akron.

• Reeves Cake Shop will host two free wedding shows, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 2770 Cory Ave. in Akron.

Visitors will be able to view more than 40 wedding cakes and sample more than 20 popular cake flavors, fillings and icings.  No reservation required. For more information visit reevescakeshop.com, call 330-848-1036 or email info@reevescakeshop.com.

• Celebrate Valentine's Day with a wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Merchant Tavern, 1824 Merriman Road in Akron's Merriman Valley. Sparking rosé, champagne, whites, reds and dessert will be featured with light finger foods. This is a casual event, where guests fetch their own samples from a table. Cost is $40, presale only. Call 330-865-9510.

 

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook.