By Tom Walogorsky
Vinny’s Deli and Pasta has been a Pawling institution for many years. Residents and visitors flock daily to the location on East Main Street for its delicious Italian fare and friendly service. On August 5, the business would attract a different kind of hungry clientele as Vinny’s was chosen to host the first event of the Hudson Valley Tour of Italy Eating Competition with a “Meatball Throwdown.”
This year marks the inauguration of the culinary contest. Intended to showcase local restaurants throughout the region, each competition features a different Italian favorite. Beginning with the meatball sandwich match at Vinny’s Deli, the traveling tournament continues weekly with entrants testing their eating skills with chicken Parmesan, cannoli, pizza, and calzone challenges at restaurants in Dutchess and Orange Counties. The winner of each eating contest is then entered into the main event at Pizza and Meatball Fest 5 in Newburgh on Saturday, September 9, for a chance to win the $500 grand prize. The Tour of Italy promotion is sponsored by Leo’s Restaurants, Happy Habit Vape and Smoke Shop, and K104 radio.
The Meatball Throwdown attracted a jovial crowd at Vinny’s. K104 was on hand to provide music and distribute prizes, while deli staff offered free samples of Italian meats, fresh mozzarella, and of course, meatballs. More than fifty onlookers gathered on the patio outside, with nine being brave enough to enter the competition. “We’re going to chow down on more meatball subs than Palermo, Sicily!” said Angelo “Big Ang” Notaro of K104, the Master of Ceremonies for the contest.
The rules were simple: Whoever could eat the most 12-inch meatball sandwiches in five minutes would be declared the winner. With the crowd cheering them on, and “Eye of the Tiger” blasting from the speakers, the contestants dove headlong into the pile of subs. After five minutes of intense culinary consumption, Pawling’s own Brennen Farrell was declared the winner with a total of 2.5 sandwiches eaten. Said Farrell of his victory: “The sandwiches were hot as hell! But it’s a competition, so you have to go for it. I drank water after every bite, but it was really painful. My strategy worked out, and I got it done.” In addition to being entered in the Pizza and Meatball Fest 5 in September, Farrell took home a $100 cash prize.
“We had an extremely successful day,” said owner Vinny LaMorte at the close of the festive meatball match. “We couldn’t have done it without K104, the support from the Pawling community, my customers and staff. It all comes together as a community effort, and Pawling being the community that it is made it a great day.”