Man vs. Pizza
There’s an old adage that says, “Never try to eat anything larger than your head.”
Two men from Boone tossed that wisdom aside last week, when they took on the “Take Down the Godfather Challenge” at A Taste of Italy restaurant in downtown Blowing Rock.
Angel Perez and Devin Lattin believed in their hearts that they could conquer the challenge, which consists of two people eating a 13-pound pizza in 60 minutes.
The rules of the challenge are scant: The pizza must have at least three meat items, and there is no vomiting or time outs allowed. Challengers are allowed beverages, and they can walk around during the 60 minutes.
If successful, Perez and Lattin would pocket the $500 cash prize.
“Four-hundred teams have tried this challenge over the years; only one has had success,” said A Taste of Italy manager Matthew Lonon.
A Taste of Italy owner Lou Esposito has been offering the challenge for three years, first at his restaurant in Gaston and now for the first time in Blowing Rock. His restaurateur uncle has been offering a similar challenge for the past decade.
For last week’s Godfather Challenge, Perez and Lattin chose bacon, pepperoni and capicola — a thinly sliced, dry cured meat from the neck and shoulder of a pig — as their three meats. The pizza also contained copious amounts of cheese and an assortment of toppings.
“We asked them for no olives, no onions, no anchovies and no artichoke hearts,” Lattin said.
All told, the massive pizza weighed in with seven pounds of crust and six pounds of toppings. It was a whopping 28 inches in diameter.
In preparation for the Godfather Challenge, Lattin looked up eating contest blogs online and had practiced by eating seven pounds of cantaloupe in one sitting. Tips he learned online included standing up during the challenge and eating the toppings first and saving the crust for last.
At about 3:30 p.m. last Wednesday, Esposito and girlfriend Teri Anglin carefully removed the behemoth pizza from the restaurant’s brick oven. Anglin then cut the pizza into more than a dozen slices and slid it into a giant cardboard pizza box, ordered especially for the challenge.
By the time the pizza emerged from the kitchen and was carried to the patio dining area, more than a dozen people had gathered to watch the challenge, including friends of Perez and Lattin and waitresses and other employees of A Taste of Italy.
After posing for a few photos with the gargantuan pie, Lattin and Perez changed into more casual attire, while Esposito set the timer for 60 minutes. Anglin placed a large plastic garbage can next to the table “just in case.”
“We’re going to let it cool down for about 10 minutes before we start,” Lattin said.
“That’s fine, you just tell me when you’re ready,” Esposito said.
When the pizza had cooled to Perez and Lattin’s satisfaction, the timer was started, and the two men were off. For the first 15 minutes of the challenge, it looked as if they were on pace to finish off the pie in the allotted time. They ate several slices apiece with verve and gusto, smiling and joking with the crowd.
The pair slowed significantly during the next 15 to 20 minutes with Lattin scraping off and eating toppings, while setting large chunks of crust to the side. Meanwhile, Perez’s pace dropped off dramatically, as he picked selective toppings off of the pie and ate them between small sips of Coke.
With less than 15 minutes to go, things were looking grim, despite the increasingly vocal encouragement of the crowd. With 11 minutes and 34 seconds to go, Lattin literally threw in the towel, a white kitchen towel he had been using to wipe sweat and pizza off of his face, and admitted defeat.
“Pizza meat is salty, and that really starts to get to you,” Lattin said in an after-challenge interview. “But I think the crust is the hardest part of the challenge.”
Added Esposito, “At my old restaurant, we had a wall of fame and a wall of shame where we put the photos of the people who took the challenge. It’s been six years since the challenge was defeated.”
A Taste of Italy
Now in its fourth week of operation in downtown Blowing Rock, A Taste of Italy is garnering fans for its authentic Italian food and New York style brick oven pizza.
“We use all fresh ingredients,” Esposito said. “Nothing is frozen or pre-processed.”
The restaurant features pizzas, calzones, strombolis, salads and hero sandwiches, served hot or cold.
Appetizers include garlic knots, garlic bread, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, antipasta plate and Caprese salad.
Dinner entrees come with bread, sauce and a side salad, and the menu includes lasagna, spaghetti, fettuccini Alfredo, baked ziti, eggplant parmesan, stuffed peppers, chicken parmesan, chicken Alfredo, shrimp Alfredo, shrimp scampi and homemade ravioli.
A Taste of Italy also offers stuffed breads including the Italian stuffed bread, eggplant stuffed bread, chicken Alfredo stuffed bread and others.
For dessert, diners can choose from carrot cake, cannoli, cannoli cake, fresh fruit with Marscapone cream, eclairs, Napoleons, tiramisu, chocolate cake and ricotta balls.
The restaurant features four cheesecakes: plain, chocolate, almond and raspberry.
All desserts are made fresh on site with fresh ingredients.
A Taste of Italy, located at 155 Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock, is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (828) 414-9698.
Got food news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at (email@example.com) , or call (828) 264-6397.