Patrick Bertolett- the man who ate a million slices

My one fear in life is that I’ll be tossed in a straitjacket and taken to food rehab. In the customary “Dear substance” letter, mine is addressed to pizza. There’s no doubt at some point I’ll sneak some in and freebase it in my padded cell.

The source of my obsession is unknown, but began six years ago when I started ranking every pizza I consumed (the rating system had fast-food pizza like Domino’s as a 0, while pizza perfection would be a 10). I consider myself a pizzaphile/connoisseur — I’ve sampled it in over 200 shops slinging pie on three continents. I’ve even been called a “pizza douche” by jealous friends. On a recent visit to New York City, I focused on expanding my pizza horizon. My professional itinerary included a cannoli-eating contest and an appearance on Regis and Kelly to break the banana-eating record, but more importantly adhering to a strict and comprehensive pizza-eating schedule.

If you desire a pizza Mecca, then look no further than NYC (it pains me to say being a Chicagoan, but it’s true). In my prayers to the pizza gods I bow and kneel while turning my palate due east. I’ve hit all the coal-burning staples, shitty single-slice spots, plus all the hidden neighborhood favorites so passionately debated.

What follows is my roughly outlined summation of my recent experiences trying to eat as much pizza in NYC as I could get my hands on.

Di Fara

After my appearance on Regis, with a bellyful of bananas and a feeling of disgrace for only tying the record (7 in a minute; they actually made me peel them), I set out for some of NYC’s most noteworthy pizza joints, and the most widely praised of them all, Di Fara. I like to think this excerpt from a review I wrote a few years back captures its true essence and that of owner/pizza maker Domenico DeMarco, and holds true to this day:

“First arrival into this pizza Mecca makes one wonder if this is what pizza was like when it first arrived on the scene over a century ago. What appears to be my Italian grandfather is making a few pizzas before he goes on his daily walk. As with grocery shopping, I wouldn’t recommend going to Di Fara hungry because it takes a little time. But the wait allows you to see all the accolades and watch the master at work.

“He painstakingly assembles each pie to order using ‘no shortcuts,’ as he muttered his secret to my friend and me. He grates all cheese to order and snips fresh basil over the finished masterpiece. A healthy drizzle of virgin oil pre- and post-oven is the perfect flavor vehicle of all that is good and perfect in this pizza.”

I suggest you trek out to Brooklyn and watch the old master at work. Think Mr. Miyagi in a pizza dojo, but the only wax-on-wax-offing is the removal of the oily goodness that covers your lips and chin, ideally with your tongue.

Di Fara is a rare 9+ pizza. In my opinion, the quality of their ingredients rivals that of the world’s best 3-star Italian joints. The fact that DeMarco’s been making pizza this good for 40 years is nothing short of remarkable, and anything with a 9 ranking or better in my book is no joke. To loosely paraphrase The French Laundry Cookbook, perfection is unachievable, but the notion that it exists is my inspiration to leave no pizza stone unturned.

Cannoli

Waking up early the next day with a scorching case of heartburn is not the ideal way to attend a cannoli-eating contest…yet I ultimately prevailed by downing a record-breaking 32 six-inch cannolis (that’s 16 feet for you math whizzes) in six minutes. Mouth shredded to a pulp, post-contest shots of digestif taught me the effects of sambuca on open mouth sores.

Artichoke

My other noteworthy stop proved to be Artichoke Pizza, where the specialty is akin to thick, creamy artichoke dip on a crispy dough base. To call it pizza is kind of a stretch. The reviews are mixed, so with a solid beer buzz and cannoli cream-covered clothes I dug in and enjoyed.

The amount of flavor delivered in each bite was off the charts. Given my stomach capacity and appetite, even I would struggle to put down more than a few slices. Artichoke has a lot of things going for it: open late, good slice and beer in a large styrofoam vessel that makes drinking in public a proverbial walk in the park.

Pizza by the slice

NYC seems to have a love-hate relationship with pizza by the slice. Most hardcore places refuse to serve them, displaying signs trumpeting their “no slices” policy. On the lower end, a great number of shitty dollar-slice saloons are popping up to peddle cardboard 24/7.

My take is that the correlation of a slice to whole pie is similar to the correlation between cleavage and full nudity. Sure, cleavage is nice, but you don’t get a true sense of what you’re dealing with. Just go to a topless joint in Tijuana and you’ll know what I mean. When ordering a whole pizza, there is no amount of vertical stripes, push-up bras, glitter, opaque makeup or parmesan that can hide its true traits and faults.

My ritual is to order a whole margarita or cheese pie so a true sense of the chef’s skill, quality of ingredients and finesse can be assessed.

Heaven and hell

I’m not sure I believe in heaven and hell, but there is a proverb that describes heaven as a lavish feast with everyone feeding each other using giant forks. Hell is set with the same lavish spread, but no one can eat as they selfishly try feeding themselves with the same forks.

My heaven is as an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring my favorite pizzas from childhood. My hell is filled with ass-douches filling up on the overhyped boutique pizzas du jour using a fork and knife, but only after dabbing the grease off of the surface with a couple of napkins.

I leave you with a quote from the great Jack Handy: “If when you die you get a choice between pie heaven and regular heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if not…mmmboy.”

P Bertoletti- fueled by kosher hot dogs, black pudding, and spotted dick

          After numerous doses of pepto, Lipitor and pairs of depends I’ve had time to digest the nitrates and experiences of this past 4th of July hot dog eating contest. The 4th can be compared to a moderately big event in ones life, a bar mitzvah you trained 3 months eating hot dogs for (kosher mind you). Time along with effort, focus, and sweat equity are invested and leave a void, lack of self direction and worth. Kind of like if at midnight you turn into a pumpkin and or Lindsay Lohan. But when the adrenaline is still coursing you command a sense of chi rebirth as faith in the human spirit and mind are reinvigorated because accomplishments were made.

           If I were a hated gym teacher on the 4th my stomach would be a stomped out paper bag filled with smoldering adrenaline, good intentions, and hot dog induced excrement. Consuming 53 hot dogs in 10 minutes garnered a 2nd place finish behind the great Joey Chestnut. I covered my clothing, neighbors, and non ironic molestache in sugar free generic target brand cherry limeade. “What the hell is that red shit? Or “Were you eating the hot dogs or throwing them up with all of your vital organs” is not the ideal conversation starter when entering a meat coma. Any distractions from grabbing a cold beer from rubys on the boardwalk is not one I embrace. When 53 hot dogs are consumed the body craves more liquids than is probably safe or natural and a beer on the boardwalk is what the nurse (ratched) ordered. With that beer the mind will wander and reflect on the day’s events and disbelief that the entire $200 per-diem was spent on one last hot dog practice. The sliver tray lining being it’s not difficult to convince the clerk of your intentions when your face is plastered on the paper tray liners.

       

With each passing of the 4th and the pepto bottle I am left to ponder my future and scratch a few layers into my reflexive self.  With each great event and built up there’s a natural crash.  For each expended adrenaline atom there’s a void that stubbornly won’t be filled. It could be the reason rock stars and celebrities turn to drugs, trying to unnaturally fuel the adrenaline burning oven from within.  Ones life is not meant for display in more than 15 minute increment (Andy Warhol 15 min of fame).  Most crumble under the pressure, just look at ghosts of child actors pasts.  The eyes and world is expecting big things which are almost impossible to produce.

Those that are in the spotlight usually possess certain qualities that increase their appeal and adoration from fans.  There are certain personality types in life that draw attention.  They are the Jekyll n Hyde personalities that are outliers of the norm.  The traits so cherished usually signal the inherent downfall. (Keith moon for example, loved for his crazy drug/ alcohol antics, killed by the double edge scotch bottle).  It’s almost as if in the delivery room the doctor should slap the baby then the parents for concocting such tainted genetics but follow it with a high five.  I’m not saying that my talents should garner attention and adoration but that there is some faulty brain wiring on that drives me to competitive eating and I’m left with those same empty feelings after certain big eating events. 

My fears in life are few; normalcy, boredom, and mediocrity.  Ferris Bueller may have said “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” My interpretation- “life can move pretty slow, if there’s too much time to think it could lead to insanity”. Normal life is a series of distractions from how horribly boring and uneventful the every day grind can be.  For normalcy is insanity.  What’s good for the normal/ masses is a lot similar to the sludge fed to cattle.  Jay Leno, Domino’s pizza, and Kate Hudson rom coms are prime examples.  The biggest fear of all is going through life as an unknown shlub.  My main objective in life is to make an impact on the lives of others.  I’d much rather be loved and adorned by a select few of the public then to garner a lukewarm approval and liking by the general masses.  I’d like nothing more than to have people pick up my auto bio at the local Salvation Army for $.79, and get something out of my life.  A life filled with an overflowing accordion file of experiences, acquired wisdom, and self explorations.  Where the pay off and brain wrinkles far outweighed the invested time and a sincere attempt at peeling back the onion layers of meat and nitrates below my non kosher casing are made.  The feeling cannot be matched when others invest time to truly investigate the interworking/ erector set of hot dog mortar, and Popsicle sticks coated in a manic eccentric obsessive food chemical formula.  So perhaps a psychologist would argue that my involvement in professional eating could be my crutch to stave off boredom and insanity.  Others site getting rich or starting a big family as their main life goals, my objective being  to bring a little humor and substance to the lives of others.   

I usually follow these mental dialogues with a recap of my latest food adventures.  Following the Nathans contest I ventured to Ireland in an attempt to absorb my motherland and to sample as much black pudding, whiskey, unpasteurized cheese, and funky flavored potato chips as possible.  Travelling abroad and especially in the European Union countries has taught me the low value of U.S. currency and impressive the potato chip varieties available.  I discovered/ sampled the following on this trip; Cumberland sausage, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar and caramelized onions, spring onion and cheddar,  caramelized shallot and white cheddar, bacon, grilled steak, pigs in a blanket Pringles to name a few.  The Pringles pigs in the blanket were my favorite as they gave off the greasy flavor and lingering aftertaste of cafeteria breakfast sausages(bangers if you want to go all British)  Potato crisps (as they are called) are the ultimate fat boy treat.  There is no reason to ever eat them as they consist of empty abundant sodium and deep fried calories.  It could be the perfect vacation food to consume while reading trashy magazines your sister packed to read on the plane.  Vacation for me is about celebrating/ encouraging my excessive appetites for food and alcohol.  Following them up with excessively bad hangovers and in the case of Ireland excessively big portions of proper Irish breakfasts including the much celebrated black pudding (blood mixed with oats, YUUUMMMMY!)  This trip was a testament to my growing taste experiences and thirst for the tabloids while nursing the Irish flu. 

If ever there was a perfect memory from this trip that could be applied as a metaphor to my life it was the chugging contest vs. a young Irish lad.  I put my pint down in 2 gulps and was met with a “Holy Shit” from the bartender.  My life can be described as a series of “holy shit” moments; as in “Holy Shit that guy in the Mohawk just ate an astronomical amount of food.”   Or from my girlfriend “holy shit, I can’t believe you just did that, you are such an idiot”

In conclusion, I hope this won’t be my last trip to the EU or the last time I get to relay some of the crazy thoughts that form a funnel cloud of chaotic convictions south of the old Mohawk. Eating if something that has taken me farther than I ever thought possible.  I was a binge eater with a weight issue before eating.  That’s not something one ever outgrows but for now I’m having the best time of my life. 

Hot dogs, bhut, and luchador

The binge to end all binges was slated to culminate on November 11th surrounding the bhut pepper wing contest.  Crazy legs, Joey, Erik the red, n Allison were all on the binge list.  The launch would begin at the start of competitive eating/ birth of all of our eating careers; the Nathans hot dog factory.  If there is no Nathans hot dog contest there is no competitive eating, therefore if there is no Nathans hot dog factory there is no Patrick deep dish Bertoletti (I think that was in my sat English section).  I’d simply by Patrick, “I’m chunky, acne’d, have no life outside of chefing, and uncomfortable introverted” Bertoletti    Spending any time in a competitive eater’s hotel room or bathroom is far more frightening than touring the factory.  This quiet, hygienic, and clean facility was a long way from anything in Upton Sinclair’s days.

With the noxious odors clinging to us and a quick Mexican lunch we headed back to Pilsen, picking up a sampling of the soon to be illegal four loco drinks.  An Aurelio’s pizza delivery was timed perfectly for a 2nd lunch.  One pizza style that often gets overlooked by the world is bar style, it’s super thin, a tad greasy, seasoned generously, highly flavored sauce, and cut into squares.  It’s been my go to pizza and trumps New York and Neapolitan when cravings call.  It’s evocative of pizza before it was sent to a Neapolitan finishing school.  The chef/owners devise the flavors/ textures and don’t follow any pizza rules (a lot like if Patrick Swayze from road house was a pizza chef).  I then dished up some sandwich creations for Mr. Legs.  They included French toast stuffed w/ goat cheese, golden raisins, almond, maple, n cinnamon, w/ a coconut caramel sauce.  And the elv-ez a tribute to the king with maple bacon cream cheese, peanut butter, n banana’s, lightly toasted in bacon fat.  Perhaps the Mexican, pizza, n sandwiches was a little much pre contest but I was fearful for my colon and wanted to get a food plug down along with a handful of Imodium to prevent the rampant spread of wildfire south of my navel.  Never have I been so rattled pre contest, and never have I seen the consumption of a 1/5 of Jack Daniels done as Joey chestnut did.

There are contest variables going in that are uncertain; texture, temperature, and shittyness of food.  But the bhut pepper wing sauce added an element of challenge and fear, as the effects were untested and unknown as I’m only versed in jalapenos and habeneros.  The elements of capacity, gross out factory, and jaw strength are expected in contests, but for this contest I feared the unknown.  Fears of shitting myself, pissing my pants, throwing up, and possibly climaxing all at the same time were uncertainties my brain processed without a grain of salt.  Confidence was not high and going in I knew the outcome was a craps my pant shoot.  I was certain the top finishers would be close between Erik, Tim, and myself.  My fears were exaggerated, I got a little queasy 2 minutes in but the aftereffects were not on par with jalapeño’s.  The worst side effect was my scorched face 45 minutes after.   This was not a capacity contest so eating 34 wings vs. 275 pickled jalapeños was no comparison.  I’m currently working with deans foods to create a bidet for post heat contests that utilized milk in place of water.  This would definitely sell well in Mexico and all countries close to the equator where capsicum is king.

Post wings lead to lucha vavoom- Mexican wrestling, with a light dusting of midgets, comedy, and n burlesque.  It turned out to be just the comedic/ entertaining pepto bismol that was needed to cool our stomachs.  Lots of drinks were ingested and heckling was supplied by the great Joey “jaws” Chestnut.

The next day featured a lunch feast at hot Dougs, with all the specials of the day consumed (12 in all plus 4 regular dogs and 3 fries) Specialty dogs range from bacon sausage to elk.  It was the kind of meal that generates patriotism and pride that someone is deep frying French fries in duck fat.  Mediocrity is the calling card for most restaurants anywhere, and people settle for it.  Whenever someone breaks the mediocrity mold the level of response and insanity from the public can become overwhelming.  Most fizzle out and crumble under the pressure/ extended business.  But I’ve never experienced a flat lining of quality in my tenure as a customer.  The frequency of meals I ate a nearly perfect tubed, mustarded, and cheesed meal between a bun was quite high.  Nothing in Chicago has provided such consistently.

Upon reflection of the weekend I was reminded of a trip to comicon where I sat between 2 nerds on a Diego bound united airlines flight.  Hearing them banter about japanime, comics and not losing their virginity I was struck with a superior notion of confidence and self worth.  Upon later reflection perhaps I was the weird one flying 5 hours to eat mars bars in an exhibition to promote a video game.  Perhaps the reason prize eaters go so crazy when around others of their kind is because we resemble a bunch of albino’s holocaust survivors, as in a rare kind that is spread across the U.S sharing the same mental imbalance, virtues, mental drive, history, and passions.  How odd it is a fringed/ debatable sport/ spectacle has united such similar borderline compulsive/ addictive personalities.

Me being weird at comicon

 

-chow

Pddb

 

 

 

 

Minneapolis Pizza

This blog is dedicated to all my(Alyssa’s) peeps in Minneapolis(The Johnson’s, Nayan the yogurt maker, the Heiers, etc.).  There is something quite amazing about Minneapolis that i wasn’t expecting to find.  I am overly content with the time I spent navigating the bitter cold and incredible food and bar scene.  It’s often overlooked as a 2nd rate Midwestern food hot spot but they serve a great array of pizza, burgers and tasty morsels on every corner.  It’s a smaller version of Chicago with balls and a little bit of grit(not to mention it’s home base for my favorite band dillinger four-check that shit out).  If you’re ever in the Minneapolis St. Paul area my first suggestion is to stay out of St. Paul, my second is to visit one of these pizza places.

 

Punch


Could be one of the best and most consistent pizza’s I’ve ever had.  They are expanding and with several visits it’s a consistent 9, keeping in mind that there are no 10’s in my book.  They are certified d.o.c. meaning they follow the regulations of the Italian government and adhere/ exceed the standards.  The dough can only have 4 ingredients and showcases the ingredients.  When only a few ingredients are used there is nowhere for sloppy craftsmanship’s or skill to hide.  Punch uses the best ingredients, and a 900 f oven that turns a flour and yeast matrix into  finished masterpieces in 90 seconds.

Crescent moon


This pizza comes out shaped like a pigskin and breaks all the pizza rules.  Kind of like the California style “if it works on a sandwich it will work on pizza” motto Ed Ladou coined.  Served with Middle Eastern spiced beef, onions, peppers, and a spicy dipping sauce this pizza begs to be devoured.  When you want to change up the flavors you can use the dipping sauce to add another layer of flavor.  The best pizza’s warrant it’s diners to eat up to the amount of pizza ordered.  For example if eating at vito and nicks with 3 friends you could order 6 pizzas and I guarantee all the pizza will get eaten.  It’s so good that if there’s pizza in front of you your taste buds will need another fix and you will not be able to stop eating.  That’s how good crescent moon pizza is, you will definitely eat up to the amount of pizza ordered.

Porter n Frye


This trendy spot turns out great stuff.  We ordered a traditional margarita and a fancy pants special with some type of mustard coated arugula on top.  Fancy or not this pizza is delicious and should not be missed. Not to mention they carry my favorite vodka (bison grass)

 

Dulono’s


 

Usually the old school titans of pizza have been churning out shitty pizza for decades and for some reason they exist perhaps on nostalgic childhood followers.  Dulono’s has that 50 year old feel yet turns out pizza that is in no way that shit you grew up on.  It’s a slightly thicker crust with a flavorful sauce and just the right dusting of grease.  Whenever you want good old fashion pizza that always delivers check this place out

 

Pizza Luce

They like to play with the pizza formula.  The true test is if a chef can create the basics.  Before you can move up from waxoning the hood of Mr. Miagi’s hood you have to perfect the basics and Luce certainly churns out a delectable margarita showing that someone did their time in Ralph Machio’s camel tail cutoff jean shorts.  They experiment with odd toppings, including the above that was blanketed with a layer of mashed potatoes, habanero cream cheese and an assortment of veggies and an avocado crema.  The basics were all there and worked harmoniously, with the crust supplying the needed canvas in the background as a flavor carrying hand to mouth device.

Red Savoy


Falls into the bar style pizza, thin, greasy, salty, highly flavored sauce.  The original st. paul location is ok but it’s the Minneapolis locations I drunkenly come back for.    The sauce is slightly spicy n acidic and can cause heartburn the next day but I was likely going to wake up with heart burn in the morning post binge anyways; so take some tums and aspirin with a gallon of water when you wake up.  And if you are feeling saucy get the pickle and bacon pie, it tastes a lot better than you think.

In closing don’t sleep on Minneapolis, It’s a wintry mirage of down to earth people that know how to drink a fish bowl and steer a peddle pub while 2x the legal limit.  I’ve found many pizza’s in the rough not to mention an awesome girlfriend.

Chow

pddb

Destined for obestiy and instability

Does happiness exist when the definition remains unknown and is not figured into one’s life equation?  Especially if there’s no guarantee complete jovial solace will occur in your skin/ mental asylum.  These points are usually backed up by a mental disability or imbalance where perception is altered and all shortcomings and failures are brought to the surface.  When most see the good in you it takes all your strength forgetting those past failures and inadequacies. It doesn’t take much convincing or self doubt that the public is looking thru the wrong lenses and that a pair of “they live” glasses is needed to see the true head case/ monster lurking inside.  The mere thought of a compliment triggers a noxious anxiety driven dry heave and excuses are made to take your internal self esteem down a few pegs.  Outward displays of enthusiasm, passion, and emotions annoy a large part of your brain.  The public is well versed in my speeded consumption of gross looking foods  yet any outlying excitement and fire is not acceptable.  Any mental state besides the current is the one I strive for.  Desperate attempts are made at repairing a short circuit where feelings of inadequate educationally n emotionally, but some motherboards are fried.

I’m an emotional streaker where all it takes is a cooler full of blatz to transform a somber wallflower into a coked up stripper dishing out her real name, number of kids or source of that ungodly abdomen scar.  How is it possible to conquer the mind yet struggle to exceed the minimum mental height requirements?  Eating 14 lbs of jalapenos is cake but a white collar cocktail party can lead to an international incident.

I binge on all things emotional and tangible and purge them up with 15 gin and tonics.   The desire is some sort of flat lining of emotions but it’s something unachievable and may not be something I want, anything to level the extremes in life would do.  Normal is something I’ve never embodied, ever since I out grew the growth charts at 9.  They say the most fucked up are borderline brilliant, I border instability so where does that leave me?  Normalcy is questioned and pondered and leads to insanity, but why is it that every time bottom is hit it’s all I crave, anything to level out.  When the internal volume of shortcoming and past embarrassments reach insanity the bottle or any mind altering distraction is used to settle the boat and offer a temporary escape from a cruel chemically unbalanced brain.  And the next day includes drunken déjà vu/ flashback where the questions of “I can’t believe I said/did that” are asked periodically, only mounting the building catalogue of crippling embarrassment.

There’s a series of valleys and mountain tops of emotion, with each downward turn I burrow deeper and deeper on a quest for answers and interpersonal wisdom.

With each wrinkle in my brain of acquired knowledge my soul is left calloused and smoldering from the repeated slash and burnings.  Perhaps it’s the downs that make the ups more magical and memorable.  Just like McDonalds lowering your burger palate so when a fresh ground 4×4 animal is consumed it’s orgasmic. But it’s an erie feeling when your head and well being is in the clouds and know the drop is near and some internal

a-hole is waiting in the wings to pull you by the ankles down into a 50 foot crater.  If the crash was caused from the death of a loved one it would be understandable but if this cycle continues to repeat itself for no reason it can grate down even a mental giant.

This mind wonders what will happen when the eater formerly known as deep dish eats it on a slice of pizza like Mama Cass via grilled cheese sandwich.  Will everyone have gotten “me”? Or will it be like me trying to explain my penchant for out skirted heroes/ idols.  Will a ten minute conversation be needed to explain why I loved girl talk books, Charles Bronson, and mariachi bands?  Or more importantly why I was cremated and mixed with gold bond medicated powder so when used on male parts and that sweet sweet burn is felt they will think of deep dish bertoletti.

This in a nut shell is what deep dish bertoletti is all about.  The Crude Goldberg machine south of the Mohawk is an anxiety particle accelerator and these are mere observations and answers to give some insight into the one they call patricio pollo loco deep dish bertoletti.

Chow

-pddb