Its heyday as a center of Italian-American life passed long ago. While tourists still flock to this section of lower Manhattan to eat spaghetti and buy souvenirs, several other neighborhoods in New York eagerly proclaim themselves as the real Little Italy.
But authentic or not, today this block had something no other neighborhood could claim — a pasta eating contest.
Presented by the Little Italy Merchants Association and sponsored by Tuttorosso tomatoes and Rienzi Pasta, the event known as the Fifth Annual Tuttorosso Pasta Eating Competition was held on Mulberry Street.
The participants, all male, work in shops and kitchens around Mulberry and Grand Streets. They gathered at a long table on the sidewalk in front of Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante. There, the contestants donned white aprons, sat down and — for eight long minutes — devoured bowl after bowl of carefully-measured spaghetti and marinara sauce.
Some barely spilled a drop of sauce, tightly clutching their forks until the end, while others threw decorum to the wind and dug in with both hands. The winner, Fabrizio Rinaldi, a waiter at Il Cortile, earned a cash prize of $250, a shiny gold trophy, a handshake from a politician and a fleeting, messy moment of glory.
Little Italy Online: 5th Annual Pasta Competition
Association of Independent Competitive Eaters
NY Post: Lotsa Pasta
Sorrento Cheese Summer in Little Italy Festival
Little Italy Neighbors Association
Wikipedia: Little Italy
Sorrento Cheese & Italian street festivals
Menu Pages: Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante