Pizza Eating Event Held at Saugus Eatery
By Matt Tempesta / The Daily Item
SAUGUS — Nine contestants stood in a row in front of a long white table at Prince Pizzeria in Saugus Thursday night, each one with two pizza pies and two pitchers of water sitting in front of them.
After a countdown from five, the contestants dug in and stuffed their faces to try and win the $500 grand prize at Prince’s first-ever pizza-eating competition.
After 10 minutes of eating, Jamie McDonald of Hartford, Conn. took home the prize by downing four full pizza pies.
“You want to chew as little as possible,” said McDonald, who qualified by eating 19 slices last month. “It’s a fine line between chewing and choking. I just eat it as fast as possible. The crust is good, but it’s crispy enough where when you try to eat it fast it can hurt your mouth.”
Contestants stuffed slice after slice into their mouths, with some dipping the crusts into pitchers of water to soften them up.
McDonald is no stranger to competitive eating and said he travels the country to compete in events.
“I’ve done other stuff like hot dogs, chili dogs, last weekend I did meatballs out in Chicago,” said McDonald. “I’ve only been doing it for about two months, but in two months I’ve done fairly well. I like pizza and you get money for eating it, so what the hell?”
Actor and comedian Lenny Clarke, a regular standup act at Prince’s Giggles Comedy Club, hosted the event with fellow comedian Tony V. Clarke said when he used to weigh close to 400 pounds he may have been able to down multiple pies, but not anymore since losing 178 pounds.
“In the old days I would start fast but not last,” said Clarke. “I was a constant eater, not a speed eater. When I was 400 pounds I could make these men shiver in their boots. I do like pizza, but these guys are a special breed of people.”
Prince owner Trisha Castraberti said she started the contest after years of customer requests.
“I kept saying, ‘No, it’s gross,’” said Castraberti. “But then I said, ‘Why not? We’ll try it for once.’ Then we wound up getting people from all over the country coming. We’re going to get it sanctioned next year. It’s really big.”
Joe Manchetti, a self-described “semi-professional” eater, came in second place with three pies and won $250. He said he competes in about 30 events per year.
“I can’t call myself a professional because I can’t sustain a living just off of it,” he said. “I think the best description is that it’s a profitable hobby.”
Manchetti said his technique is to do “as little chewing as possible” regardless of the food.
“If you’re chewing, you’re spending too much time,” said Manchetti. “I don’t prepare. The closest thing I do to practice is chewing a lot of gum. I don’t do any water training or anything like that.”
McDonald, however, said he drinks “lots and lots” of water in the days before competition, but eats a normal diet leading up the contest.
With his $500 cash prize in hand, McDonald said he was full, but could “probably have eaten more.”
Matt Tempesta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.