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Taste offers a big bite of Westmoreland eateries

| Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The year's best deal in restaurant dining doesn't require clipping coupons, buying an entertainment book or shouting into a speaker at the drive-through. It's the 18th annual Taste of Westmoreland, where diners can sample the fare of more than 30 restaurants and caterers for the price of one sit-down dinner.

"And they don't have to pay a tip!" says event chairwoman Terri Katzman.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the event in Chambers Hall on the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus. Once inside, diners can grab a plate and circulate around the gym, choosing samples from such places as Olive Garden, Greensburg Country Club, Panera, Cracker Barrel, DeNunzio's, Cold Stone Creamery and Starbuck's.

Although samples are given one at a time, diners can return for as many refills as they wish. Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and bottled water are offered for a small fee.

The chance for patrons to chat with the people who prepared their food benefits both parties.

"I like being one on one and talking with the people," says Marti Scalzitti of Mimi's Kitchen, a Jeannette Italian restaurant and caterer. "When you go into a restaurant you don't get that."

She will return for her second year at the event with a Mediterranean pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Kevin Ereditario, owner of Little E's Pizzeria in South Greensburg, is especially interested in getting feedback on his gluten-free breads and specialty pizzas. Because the menu at his four-month old restaurant is still evolving, he is open to suggestions from people interested in allergen-free, organic, vegan and classic pizzas, hoagies, salads and beverages. Ereditario is looking forward to participating in his first Taste of Westmoreland.

"It's a great way to get your product out there," he says. "To have 600 to 1,000 people coming by your table in three hours is pretty big."

He will be joined by a representative of Herbalicious, the Mt. Pleasant store that prepares his gluten-free pizza shells and breads. They plan to offer samples of the bread along with pierogie and Greek pizzas.

For vendors with no storefront at all, the event is even more important. At Colaizzi Brothers, a Greensburg bakery specializing in gourmet cakes and hand-dipped chocolates, all the work is made to order, which means there are no drop-in customers.

"The Taste of Westmoreland is a good way for us to be involved in the community," says owner Steve Colaizzi. "We've not only developed new business relationships, but it's a lot of fun, too."

He is looking forward to offering samples of his popular strawberry and custard cake.

The food is only half the fun at the Taste of Westmoreland. There also will be a silent auction, Chinese auction and door prizes. Attendees who bring in a food item to donate to the Westmoreland County Food Bank will receive one free ticket for the Chinese auction.

For a small donation, attendees can have their caricatures drawn by cartoonist Randy Bish, or get a hydrating hand massage from the Center Spa and Salon.

"It's all going for a good cause," Katzman says, noting that proceeds benefit diversity education and programming at Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg. The congregation holds numerous interfaith events and programs, and their library is open to the public. All leftover food will be donated to the Westmoreland County Food Bank.

Katzman is grateful that Westmoreland County has so many business people who are willing to donate their time and services for a good cause.

"It shows a sense of community," she says. "They're going out into the public and supporting a worthy event."

Additional Information:

Taste of Westmoreland

When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $20 in advance; $22 at door; $10 for age 12 and younger. Tickets are available at Shop & Save locations, Craftique Collections, DeGennaro's Restaurant, Eastgate Giant Eagle, Norwin Chamber of Commerce, Rose Style Shop in Latrobe and the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce.

Where: Chambers Hall, Pitt-Greensburg campus

Details: 724-834-0560

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