What promised to be NYC’s hottest event last weekend turned into another food fiasco when the New York City Pizza Festival left attendees standing in a nearly empty Brooklyn parking lot with little more than a few slivers of cold pizza.
Attendees paid $36-$75 for the Sept. 9 event described as “a day long celebration of the dough, cheese, tasty sauces and delicious toppings.” Instead, they arrived at 3 p.m. only to stand in line around a mostly empty parking lot with a few tents and a DJ. The failed festival is now under investigation by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
For those who stuck it out, eventually slivers of a handful of pizzas and “warm red wine that tasted like ass” were distributed.
“It was nothing but Jesus that stopped me from flipping over those tables,” wrote one attendee who drove from Albany with her brother for the event.
"There was cheese and onion pizza," another attendee told Gothamist. "We were only there for 10 minutes. I paid $150 for this. I ate what was probably the equivalent of one piece of pizza, which was actually seven little slivers. And then we were just like, 'F*ck this.'"
The photo at the top of this story was posted by Twitter user @chipshannon, whose account has since been made private. Note that the plates the slivers of pizza are resting on are dessert-sized.
Several people compared the event to another recent notorious flop: this spring's Fyre Festival, which promised Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner and instead left people stranded on a deserted island in the Bahamas. (In fairness though, taking the subway to Brooklyn isn’t quite the same thing.)
New York pizza festival with no pizza? V confused / wondering if it's the same organizers as fyre festival ??— Cori Hanky (@hanky713) September 9, 2017
The event was organized by an event company called Aputumpu run by Ishmael Osekre, who previously disappointed New Yorkers with last summer’s African Food Festival that was also lacking food vendors and was set up inside a greenhouse on one of the warmest days of the season.
To confuse things further, a companion event called the New York City Burger Festival, which promised “burgers of all shapes and sizes, for taste buds of all types... mountains of french fries, oceans of ketchup and waterfalls of beer," was supposed to take place Sept. 2. That event was postponed at the last minute and moved to the same date as the Pizza Festival.
"We decided to do both on the same weekend ‘cause of last week’s flooding in Houston and just the rains and everything," Osekre explained in a call to Metro last week after not replying to e-mailed requests for a full vendor list in the past two weeks. "We didn’t think it was the best week to feast and celebrate."
Fair enough, but this kind of change is not something any properly organized event can do given that rentals, staff and food should all have been arranged for the original date.
Aputumpu blamed the venue, Hangry Garden, for delaying the event start. Then they blamed slow deliveries for the lack of pizza — though as this was a pizza festival, you'd think the pies would be made on-site. They've also promised refunds to some of the many disappointed attendees and plan to reschedule the event — but people aren’t waiting. A Facebook page called Pizza Festival Scam Victims is collecting complaints, and so is Schneiderman’s office.
If you’re in need of a real pizza festival, Slice Out Hunger is not only way cheaper but attracts some of the best pizzerias in the city, and all proceeds go to charity. And for the burger fans, the New York Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash always brings the fun and more burgers than you could possibly taste in one night.