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At Fort Lauderdale Pizza Festival, Get Ready To Sample Pies From Pizzerias All Over South Florida

Thin-crust, New York-style, Chicago deep dish … no matter your preference, you can count on cheese, sauce and crust combinations of all kinds at the first-ever Fort Lauderdale Pizza Festival this April.

The inaugural festival, taking place April 1, will let guests sample from local pizzerias, including Mellow Mushroom, The Garlic Knot, Sarpino's Pizzeria and the brand new MidiCi's—a "fast fine" dining Neapolitan pizza franchise set to open in Flagler Village next week—and that's only the start of the fun. 

"The start of it all is pizza. That's what we're there for: to sample, taste and savor," Pizza Festival founder Lais Pontes said.

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But a successful community event can't consist of food sampling alone, she says. The event will also feature a live music stage produced by Rhythm & Vine, beverage sampling by local breweries and spirits vendors, a family-friendly kids zone, and more. It will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the War Memorial Auditorium.

Pontes, who owns a local agency called The Pontes Group, said she decided to launch the festival because research showed pizza is the No. 1 comfort food and also No. 1 among cheat day eats. 

The Fort Lauderdale publicist and "Forbes 30 Under 30" alum said, in the process of planning the event, she herself sampled pizzas from a wide variety of venues. 

"I've had more pizza in the past year than I have ever had in my life," Pontes said.

Guests will also find food and drinks beyond pizza at the festival, with other vendors including PDQ, serving up chicken tenders and fries—which Pontes called "the sidekick of pizza"—Carrabba's Italian Grill, Krave Jerky, YASSO frozen Greek yogurt bars, The Raw Juice Company and Vita Coco, plus Hoffman's Chocolates as the official dessert sponsor.

The indoor-outdoor festival will offer a kids zone inside the venue, which will be a closed-off, alcohol-free area featuring games and face painting, as well as outdoor lawn games, live music, cooking demos and more for the rest of the attendees.

General admission tickets are $30, which includes four pizza samples and eight alcohol samples per person, and VIP tickets are $75, which gives guests an extra hour of access from noon to 1 p.m. During this time, Fresh Meal Plan will serve pizza, flatbreads and other bites.

A dollar from every ticket sold will be donated to Feeding South Florida, which happens to cover six complete meals for individuals and families in need of food assistance. The organization will also be on-site to help coordinate donations of any leftover food.

"There will be no food gone to waste at the festival," Pontes said. 

So does Pontes have a favorite pizza herself? She says she loves Hawaiian, an often controversial choice.

"I'm pro-pineapple and proud of it," she said.

For a chance to win tickets to Fort Lauderdale Pizza Festival, enter our giveaway here.

Mellow Mushroom Bake Bus // Courtesy The Pontes Group