Pizza eating challenge slated for Saturday

MARIETTA – Police and firefighters from local departments will forget about portion control Saturday as they attempt to win money for charity.

Representatives of the Marietta police and fire departments, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Devola Volunteer Fire Company and Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department will compete in the Original Pizza Place’s Man vs. Pizza Charity Challenge. Whoever can eat a 12-slice, thick-crust Sicillian pizza first in 30 minutes or less gets $500 for the charity of their choice.

The Original Pizza Place has held two such competitions before at its Grand Central Mall location and so far, no one has accomplished the feat, said Kasandra Ruscitto, marketing manager.

Among those aiming to be the first to do so is Williamstown volunteer firefighter Tim Smith.

“I’m going to go in hot, see if I can’t clear it up as fast as I can,” he said.

Smith, 22, said he didn’t have to be talked into joining the competition.

“My chief … came up to me and asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, ‘Heck, yes,'” he said.

Smith will be eating for the department’s Relay for Life team.

Also chowing down Saturday will be Devola Volunteer Fire Assistant Chief J.J. Bichard. He learned about the contest from the restaurant’s Facebook page and threw his hat in the ring, competing for the Gospel Mission Food Pantry in Marietta.

Bichard, 42, said he’s always been interested in food competitions and has picked up a few things from watching them over the years.

“Not sitting down while you’re eating is one. Standing up seems like it helps,” he said.

Ruscitto said it will be interesting to see what approach each contestant takes.

“We saw a couple different strategies before in the previous competitions (like) putting the pizza (slices) on top of each other like a sandwich,” she said.

Also in the contest are Marietta Police Officer Aaron Nedeff, for St. Jude Children’s Hospital; Marietta firefighter Matt Hively, for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley; and Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason White, for the local Fraternal Order of Police, Gold Star Lodge 188.

Previous Man vs. Pizza events have had open registration, but this one is strictly for charity. There will also be a grudge match between radio personalities from Z106 and 95XIL on the side, Ruscitto said.

The competition will take place in the Parking Partners lot across Second Street from the Original Pizza Place’s Marietta location. There will be music, along with Italian desserts and T-shirts for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

The festivities start at 4 p.m., with the eating beginning at 5. There’s no cost to attend, and people who do will get a ticket for 10 percent off an order at the restaurant after 5.

Customers can also show their support for the competitor or charity of their choice by donating at the restaurant through Saturday. Whatever is donated in that way will go directly to the charity, regardless of who wins the competition, Ruscitto said.