Beer judging joins pizza at Slice of the Valley

Slice of the Valley was so successful last year, it caused a traffic jam on Belmont Avenue and overflowed the parking lots at the Metroplex Expo Center in Liberty.

Rob Berk, event chair for the Warren Rotary event, said remodeling at the venue will increase the capacity inside the Metroplex. And they will have police officers directing traffic and additional parking available to help alleviate the congestion from last year.

“It’s getting to the point where we’re almost outgrowing this location,” Berk said. “I’m starting to think where we could possibly go in the future. We want to give people what they want, and make the price fair for everybody.”

In an area with an abundance of pizza shops and where everyone has an opinion about what makes the perfect pie, gathering many pizza makers in one place and giving folks a chance to sample their favorites and discover new ones clearly has an appeal.

Berk said last year’s event was the Warren Rotary’s most successful fundraiser to date and supported several local charities. Beneficiaries for this year’s event will be Someplace Safe, Habitat for Humanity — Trumbull County, Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County and Vietnam Vets of America.

“The board takes suggestions from the club members,” Berk said. “We had a list of eight to 10 and then narrowed it down to the groups in our community that we felt we could have the biggest impact on in receiving these funds.”

Those attending will get to pick the people’s choice winner, and a panel of judges will select the best cheese pizza and best specialty pizza winners. This year’s judges include former Cleveland Browns running backs Greg Pruitt and Kevin Mack, professional wrestler Preston Steele, WKBN news anchor Stan Boney, WHOT-FM personality Justine Thomas and musician Billy Beck.

Ianazone’s Homemade Pizza, which has multiple locations in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, won both the people’s choice category and the judge’s vote for best cheese pizza in 2018. Belleria Pizza, which also has multiple locations, won best specialty pizza for its chicken and greens pie.

Both will return to defend their titles along with Amen Corner, Avalon Downtown, Buena Vista Cafe, Cocca’s Pizza, Gionino’s Pizzeria, Leo’s Ristorante, Marco’s Pizza, Pizza Joe’s, Primanti Bros. St. Anthony’s Brier Hill Pizza, Salvatore’s, Sunrise Inn and Wedgewood Pizza.

This year’s lineup includes fewer national chains, and a few businesses that haven’t participated in the past.

“One obstacle we had this year was having it on a Saturday … and so close to St. Patrick’s Day,” Berk said. “Some pizza shops have more free time on a Sunday and were not able to help on a Saturday, but we have several new guys who wanted to be a part of it.”

Last year’s event featured beers from local craft brewers. This year’s event will feature an expanded lineup of local brews for purchase, and a separate panel of judges will pick the best beers from northeast Ohio competitors Biker BrewHouse, Clubhouse Brewing Company, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Modern Methods Brewing Company, Noble Creature Cask House, Numbers Brewing Company, Ohio Brewing Company and Paladin Brewing.

Bo Wagner will return with a larger band this year to perform the songs of Frank Sinatra, and he will be joined by vocalist Elaine Painter, who sings Barbra Streisand favorites, Berk said. Also performing will be Jazz & Soul 4U.

If you go …

WHAT: Slice of the Valley

WHEN: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Metroplex Expo Center, 1620 Motor Inn Drive, Liberty

HOW MUCH: $10 adults (includes three slices of pizza) and $5 for children ages 6 and younger (includes two slices of pizza). Extra slices will be available for $2, and desserts, beer and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the Warren Rotary Club. For more information, go to www.slice or call 330-716-3139.