PITTSTON – When a hometown guy wins the prize for best marinara sauce at Pittston Tomato Festival, it's home cooking for sure.
Restaurateur Sam Marranca took the trophy, beating six other restaurants in the Sauce Wars competition.
The recipe featured at his restaurant Café Italia on River Road received the most votes out of the 705 cast over the four-day festival that ended Sunday night. Voters paid a dollar to sample the seven sauces and the proceeds went to the Greater Pittston YMCA.
"It's an old family recipe," Marranca said.
Tomatoes are in it but good luck getting the other ingredients from him.
"It's not for sale," he said.
Marranca, 61, was surprised to get the call telling him he won. He was lying down at home after coming back from the Make a Difference for the Kids Car Show at the Pittston Commons shopping center, where his 1947 Lincoln Continental convertible was named "Best of Show."
The car's color? What else, tomato red.
"Money couldn't buy this," he said of his good fortune.
The 29th annual festival did well, too.
"All the numbers are up," festival co-chairman Michael Lombardo said.
There were more participants in the 5-K run and Tomato Fight on Saturday. Except for some rain Friday, the weather was good. And the people turned out. The lack of construction in the downtown helped.
"This year was all about getting the downtown ready," he said.
It was hard to say how many attended the festival, he added, but the trash cans in the downtown were filled Saturday night and early Sunday morning, an indication of a large crowd.
From what he heard the vendors had a pretty good night Saturday.
Tim's Chili & Salsa sold out of its canned tomatoes.
Owner Tim Bartuska of Avoca said he sold well over 450 jars total of canned items.
"Each year it gets better and better," Bartuska said.
The salsas and chili sauces and tomatoes are made from the fruit of the more 265 tomato plants grown in his garden.
Sabatelle's Fine Italian Food Market of South Main Street, Pittston, had plenty of stuffed rigatoni, pasta fagioli and soppersatta salami sandwiches to sell.
The market regrouped and restocked its booth after a hectic Saturday night, said Jane Sabatelle.
"This has been the top festival for us," she said.
Bob Cappelloni of Duryea opted for the soppersatta sandwich with the works – fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers.
"Excellent," he said after taking a big bite.