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Utica celebrates Tomato Pie Day

Thomas Caputo
Staff writer
Posted 4/29/23

It’s saucy, a Utica staple, and a little hard to describe: Tomato pie.

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Utica celebrates Tomato Pie Day


UTICA — It’s saucy, a Utica staple, and a little hard to describe: Tomato pie.

The iconic Utica delicacy was celebrated on Saturday as the city’s annual Tomato Pie Day returned after a three-year hiatus. The event began in 2017 as a way to showcase the many establishments that make tomato pie and to engage in civic pride. The event previously went on hiatus for the last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making 2023 the return of the highly anticipated event.

"I feel that people have kind of a negative opinion about what's going on in Utica and the Central New York area. There's so many positive things about the area and tomato pie is one of them," said Jay Sumner, who organizes the annual Tomato Pie Day event. "Whenever there's a birthday, graduation, or even a funeral, tomato pie is there. It's like your uncle, whether you love him or hate him, it's there and it's a part of our community."

Hundreds of people from Utica and the Mohawk Valley lined up at the Parkway Center to sample tomato pies from five different establishments participating in this year's event; Roma Sausage & Deli, Napoli's Italian Bakery & Deli, Lukin's Brick Oven Pizza & Lounge, Big Jay's Pizzeria, and The Hub Eatery.

Thomas Warda, a recent implant to Utica who's originally from Illinois, was unfamiliar with the concept of tomato pie as he was adjusting to the area. After being recommended to try the Utica staple from his boss, his first thoughts were that he was "shocked that it was served on the counter and cold" but that he enjoyed it overall.

"I was impressed," Warda said. "I'm from the Chicago area, I'm used to sauce on top, so upside down pizza was good, I tried that. But [tomato pie] is different, it's not pizza."

"I'm committed to loving tomato pie, but I still love Chicago deep dish," Warda added.

Warda and the hundreds of people who came to participate in the Tomato Pie Day event were able to vote for their favorite tomato pie contestant to win Best Tomato Pie, as well as Best Sauce, Best Crust, and Most Unique.

Roma's was chosen for Best Sauce, Napoli's was chosen for Best Crust, and Lukin's was chosen for Most Unique.

A celebrity guest judge panel, comprised of Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kari Puleo, and Bill Vinci, host of The Empire Plate, provided their votes, choosing Roma's for Best Sauce, and Napoli's for both Best Crust and Most Unique for their spicy version of tomato pie.

Roma's also took home the most coveted title of Best Tomato Pie, chosen by the people. Roma's has held the title of Best Tomato Pie since 2019, as 2020 through 2022 was on hiatus. Roma's has also been the only establishment to hold the title since the events inception, as they also won the title back in 2017 and 2018. They will showcase the Best Tomato Pie trophy, once again, in their store until the next Tomato Pie Day event in 2024.


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