LITTLE ITALY — Tube steaks are for the dogs. At least, that's how nine competitive eaters who scarfed their way to mozzarella-covered glory Saturday in Manhattan felt.
Nine contestants, each picked by a Little Italy restaurant as their "best eater," gobbled down as many pizzas as they could manage in ten minutes, for the neighborhood's annual pizza eating competition.
The $100 reward wasn't quite as handsome as the $10,000 that the winner of Nathan's hot dog eating contest gets, but for diehards of Little Italy's food, it's not about the money.
"It's all about bragging rights," said Vivian Catenaccio, 59, owner of the Mulberry Street Bar, which cooks the pizzas and has hosted the contest for three years. She's a native of the storied neighborhood. "Today's winner will be able to walk through Little Italy and tell everyone that he or she ate the most pizza today. Period."
At the end of the eating contest it was Greg Inoa, 30, a waiter at Il Piccolo Bufalo, who could proudly stand, or at least sit, triumphant after eating three 20-inch cheese pizzas. "Man, you have to be an animal to eat all this pizza," said the Brooklynite. "I'm a beast, but right now I can't move, I am so full."
Alex Tisi, 62, owner of Il Piccolo Bufalo, was beaming. "I knew Greg was going to win. I didn't give him breakfast this morning so he would have enough room to win this thing!"
People from all over the world, including folks from Australia, France and England took in the spectacle while enjoying the other sights of Little Italy.
"It's so American - I love it, it's great," said Joan Kavanaugh, 48, from Leeds in England, who stumbled across the contest while walking by.