Pizza and Poetry

buonos-poetry.jpgBy E. Medosch
Special to the Signal Tribune

Perfect day, perfect pizza, perfect poetry. The stars all lined up for Frank Buono’s tenth annual School Poetry Contest held on Saturday, June 7 at Buono’s Authentic Pizzeria, 250 Ocean Blvd., in downtown Long Beach.
The weather was perfect, the food outstanding and the poetry was perfectly memorable. This year, the contest’s theme was also entitled “Italy . . . A Perfect 10.”
Entries included the following excerpt by fourth grader Taylor Garvey of Longfellow Elementary:
Lovely cities, Venice and Rome,
The Vatican where Popes call home.
The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling art,
Heaven and earth,
two worlds apart.
Twelve years ago, restaurateur Frank Buono decided to make a creative connection with local elementary schools (in the third through fifth grades) by sponsoring a pizza recipe contest. At first, it was fun, he said, but when the children’s recipes started coming in with ingredients such as chocolate, he (and his chefs) decided to revise the contest. They asked for poetry submissions, with a new theme each year.
The theme is always related to Italy because, “we wanted to share our heritage,” Buono said. 2008 also marked the first year that Buono expanded the contest to include tenth graders from local high schools.
And on a clear, cool, and perfect June day, nearly 100 people- parents, teachers, poets and their siblings- gathered at the palazzo or small plaza behind Buono’s downtown restaurant. A full buffet of pasta and pizza and salad was served. Long tables for family-style seating were set up and fountains burbled merrily in the background.
The highlight, of course, was poetry. One judge, Dr. Gerald Locklin, a renowned and published poet who teaches at Cal State Long Beach, gave the students this creative writing advice, “Try to write every day. Listen to your English teachers and learn what they have to teach you. Watch what your other friends are writing.”
Other judges included poet Rafael Zepeda and members of the poetry club at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club.
Winners were chosen in several categories. The Poets’ Choice Award for high school students went to Dana Ramirez and John Williams, both from Millikan High School. There was also a tie for first place in the Poets’ Choice Award for elementary students between fifth grader Kenya Mora from Jackie Robinson Elementary and Taylor Garvey, a fourth grader from Longfellow Elementary. The latter were introduced by Locklin and had their poetry read aloud. Other winners include Kids Choice Award recipient Brittany Haywood, a fourth grader from Horace Mann Elementary School. The festivities were capped off by songs sung by Andrew Buono, in keeping with this “family-style” aspect of the celebration.
Frank Buono said he plans to continue the poetry contest, which has expanded over the years and now includes 21 schools from Long Beach and San Pedro.
Buono’s Authentic Pizzerias are located at 250 W. Ocean Blvd., 401 W. Willow St. and at 1432 Gaffey St., in San Pedro. For more information about the contest, visit www.BuonosPizza.com or call (562) 427-8665.

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