In the grand pantheon of arousing audio/visual entertainment, food based television ranks second only to hardcore porn. They are very similar if you really stop to think about it. Both give us a graphic, up close and personal look at the satiation of very deep, primal biological urges.
That is why food television is more popular than ever nowadays. Those images of succulent, sizzling meats and decadent, delightful desserts captivate us at a very basal level. Even without the smell of the entrees on the screen, your mouth starts to water.
It’s this desire to indulge in great food that every restaurant in the world attempts to exploit with their never ending bombardment of commercials.
Keeping this correlation between food and sex in mind, an all you can eat challenge must be analogous to a hedonistic orgy. That realization is the reason I laughed hysterically when my brother in arms, Rome, called me and said, “Ice, on the next trip, we gotta do an eating challenge.”
The Las Vegas strip seems like an ideal place to find an eating challenge. There is a massive buffet in every hotel on Las Vegas Blvd. Nobody is on the strip is looking competition in the eye and daring them to eat like a champ, though. To find a restaurant offering a challenge like that you have to go off the strip to a pizza restaurant called The Original Graziano’s on 8410 W. Desert Inn Road.
On the surface, Graziano’s appears to be a tame, sedated, family oriented neighborhood pizza place. The décor is half sports motif, half family entertainment. The menu offers many classic Italian American favorites as well as fried chicken, sub sandwiches and desserts.
Rome and I decided to kick off our tour of Las Vegas and the surrounding desert by taking on Graziano’s famous monster pizza challenge.
The monster is a 10-pound pizza loaded with every topping you could ever even begin to imagine.
The rules are simple. You and a partner have 45 minutes to devour the whole pizza. If you win, you get 2 t-shirts, 2 coupons for free pizza. (Who would want more pizza after finishing the monster?!?) And The Monster is on the house, of course, and it comes with bragging rights.
If you lose, you have to shell out $50.00 for the pizza and your face is forever plastered on the wall of shame.
Never the kind of guys that back down from a challenge, Rome and I strolled into Graziano’s late one evening and ordered the monster. The young lady that took our order looked at us and said “Do you know what you’re getting into”? Rome and I laughed like the fools we are and said “Yeah, no problem.”
The young cashier called out to the shift manager in the back and he took us through the rules of the challenge and gave us some tips. Once we were briefed, we sat at our table and waited for the monster to come out of the oven.
When it finally arrived at our table about 30 minutes later, Rome and I glanced at each other with the fear of an impending defeat washing away all of the machismo we had in our hearts just minutes earlier. This pizza was MASSIVE. 24 inches in diameter and an inch thick with crust before you even account for cheese and toppings.
Both of us are accomplished eaters. We have noshed our way through pounds and pounds of food on all of our journeys, but the monster was not your average Pizza Hut special.
We sat at opposite ends of the giant pizza tray and the shift manager counted us down. 3, 2, 1...the timer was started and we were off. The first bite was absolutely delicious. The thick crust melted like butter underneath the zesty layer of sauce and cornucopia of toppings. This was the point in the competition were we felt good and had a robust fighting spirit.
We had not eaten a thing all day -- a technique that Rome and I still argue about today. He feels like he could have eaten more if he had eaten something during the course of the day. I say we were screwed from jumpstreet!
The pizza was sliced into 36 slices. After about 8 slices each, The Monster jumped on our backs and began its wicked reign of gastrointestinal terror. “Come on Ice, don’t stop now!”, shouted Rome while snagging another slice from the beast.
After 9 slices a piece, we stopped and talked. We both admitted to each other that we were about to explode. This admission is monumental for us because we are the quintessential pseudo tough guys in perpetual competition.
If Rome was actually admitting that he was full, that means he was full two slices ago! We came to the agreement that we would each eat four more slices and discuss our strategy after that. There was still plenty of time on the clock, but the spaces in our stomachs were shrinking away with every bite.
What used to be a flavor extravaganza had now become a tedious chore.
The crust was now unchewable. My jaw was sore. The toppings felt like speed bumps working their way down my fatigued gullet. Neither one of us got those four more slices down. After a total of only 12 slices a piece, we took our final sips of lemonade to wash it all down and threw in our napkins.
With more than 15 minutes left on the clock, we knew we were done.
The shift manager came over and congratulated us on our valiant effort. He then mocked us as he took our dejected pictures for the Graziano’s Wall of Shame. To add insult to injury, he then asked us if we wanted a carry out box for the pizza we were leaving behind!
At that very moment, I thought to myself I would never want to look at a pizza again for as long as I lived. Rome and I waddled our cheese filled bodies out of Graziano’s and plopped down in our car with our heads hung in defeat.
“Next time we should do chicken wings”, Rome said before he cranked up the rental Ford Taurus and backed out of the parking space. Exactly one week later, I ordered pizza and it was delicious. Some people never learn!