Pete and Elda’s/Carmen’s Pizzeria
96 Woodland Ave and Highway 35
Neptune, New Jersey
I was eating breakfast in a shitty downtown diner last week when my buddy Nick asked me if I’ve ever heard of a place in Monmouth County, New Jersey called “Pete and Elda’s.” As I forced down a terrible bacon omelet he explained to me that if you can eat one of their double extra large pizzas by yourself, you’d be awarded a t-shirt stating you accomplished such a feat. After careful research, this was found to be the only place in the immediate area that offered a pizza eating challenge. At this point, I was fully aware that there was no other option except to make this 64.9 mile drive and become the newest inductees into the “Whole Pie Eater’s Club.”
As our waitress seated us, I noticed 2 kids (probably 13 years old at most) being presented with the coveted shirts. Was this a joke? Are these pizzas just normal size? Do they give this shirt out to anyone who even attempts the challenge but fails? I immediately looked at Plichter and further stated how we were going to destroy this pizza with the greatest of ease. I went with half sausage and half hot peppers for my selection. Before I get into it, let me explain that this was probably the worst idea I’ve ever had. I assumed they were your standard hot peppers you get as a side order for your cheesesteaks. Absolutely not. These were jumbo-sized jalapenos. And the sausage was huge balls of crumbled meat. If anyone attempts this in the future, please just stick with plain. Your body will thank you the next morning.
As the waitress delivered our 2 massive opponents in front of us, I still was 100% confident that I was leaving with that shirt. So after a few photo ops with our selections, we started eating. The first slice wasn’t bad. I ate it pretty fast and without any hesitation. It was somewhere around the middle of the second slice when I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. After finishing the 3rd slice, I needed a change or I wasn’t going to be able to finish the next 5. I made use of all the condiments that were at my disposal and it still was an ugly uphill battle. I saw Plichter take 2 slices and put them face down on each other, constructing some sort of pizza abortion sandwich. I immediately followed his lead. Slices 4 and 5 went down fairly quick. The next 2 proved otherwise. I recall watching an episode of Man Vs. Food where Adam Richman was eating something, maybe an omelet or a steak, but he complains of hitting “a wall.” I had no idea what he was talking about until I reached the middle of slices 6 and 7. I could not consume anything else without completely saturating it in iced tea and closing my eyes when I swallowed. At one point I coughed and a jalapeno went from my throat into my nose and back down again. I wanted to get up and leave right there. After some reassuring words from Plichter, I loaded the remainder of slices 6 and 7 onto my 8th slice and went to work. I choked it down, bite after bite, looking to the ceiling as I swallowed. I wiped the sweat away from my head with whatever napkins were readily available. Plichter proudly devoured his last bite while I still had a few more to go. I had my eyes set on that shirt. My last bite was within reach. I braced myself and went for the kill. I felt like a true champion with that final bite. As we left we had our victory shirts on. The 20 or so people in line waiting for a table just stopped what they were doing and looked at us as we passed.
To quote my man Mr. Glass, “It’s hard for many people to believe that there are extraordinary things inside themselves, as well as others.” I’m proud as shit to have earned that shirt. I’m even prouder to have driven 150 miles round trip to attempt such a challenge. Remember when John Candy ate that 96-ounce steak in the Great Outdoors? Yeah, that’s how I feel. Like a boss.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be in an eating contest… Knowing that I’m also a huge fan of Man vs. Food, Castro really didn’t have to twist my arm to come along on a 150-mile journey to devour an extra, extra large pizza and earn a rad shirt. I knew this task would not come easily, so I spent a couple days looking into how competitive eaters prepare for such feats. Leading up to the contest, I drank close to a gallon of water a day to increase the elasticity of my stomach. I ate rice whenever I could since many message boards claimed it would expand in and stretch my abdomen. Yet even after all the research and planning, nothing could’ve prepared me for the challenge we were about to face.
After driving through torrential downpour and arriving later than expected, we finally reached our destination: Pete and Elda’s/Carmen’s Pizzeria. Even before we entered the front door, we knew this place was legit by their “PIZZA” flag dancing in the overcast sky. Various t-shirts from contests of old lined the hallway that led to the bar/restaurant area. We were seated at a small table, greeted our waitress, and inquired about the contest.
Now my first notion was to order the pizzas plain for simplicity, but Castro insisted on ordering toppings on both. I gave into temptation and ordered half hot peppers/half bacon, while he went with the half sausage and half hot peppers on his as well. Never in my life have I actually felt nervous before eating pizza until the moment before our pies arrived. We had come all the way from Philadelphia to do this. What if I couldn’t live up to the challenge? What if I failed miserably and walked out a t-shirtless loser, only to vomit on the side of the road on the way home? My stubbornness and competitive nature would never allow such a thing.
The pies arrived, and they were MASSIVE. Castro and I both looked at each other and laughed hysterically, knowing that we had made a terrible mistake. But here in front of us were the only things standing in the way of those t-shirts, and nothing was going to keep them from us. The crust was undoubtedly the thinnest I’d ever had, which I thought would make the challenge easier. Unfortunately, the circumference of the XXL pie canceled out the crust. After about 3 slices, my fears were confirmed. The toppings on the pizza were more of a burden to our challenge. The hot peppers were in fact jalapeno peppers, and the bacon was just another unwelcomed layer to worry about. It was at that moment I asked myself, “What would Adam Richman do?” I combined a slice of bacon with a slice of hot peppers to form a pizza sandwich. Tackling two slices at once seemed to make all the difference, not to mention that the bacon and jalapenos really tasted incredible together. I also realized that the longer I took, the harder it would be to finish. I literally stuffed myself with pizza, as quickly as possible, to the point where I could almost feel it filling my lungs. By the time I had made it to my last bite, I was lightheaded and lethargic. I had reached a food drunk that incapacitated me for the remainder of the night. I choked down the last bite and raised my hands in victory. Castro wasn’t very far behind, but needed a few words of encouragement to finish off the little he had left. After which, we decided that we might need a little bit of a break from reviewing pizzas after this trip.