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The 6 Toughest Eating Challenges in St. Louis and One Foolish Man's Attempt to Beat Them All


mama_campisi_challenge.jpeg
Mama's Pasta Challenge with meatball | Zach Garrison

Mama's Pasta Challenge
$24.95
Mama Campisi's Restaurant
(2132 Edwards Street; 314-776-3100)

At Mama Campisi's on the Hill, I'm led to a back table covered in lovely white linen and a single lit candle. The immaculate tablecloth will be the field upon which a war will rage between myself and a gigantic meatball resting upon a king-size bed of noodles and sauce. There will be casualties.

Mama's Pasta Challenge consists of three pounds of pasta, a half-pound of homemade tomato sauce and, the pièce de résistance, a two-pound meatball. Owner Lance Ervin has a grin on his face when he tells me that only three individuals have ever conquered his challenge. Those were pros whose strategy, Ervin tells me, was to "keep shoveling it in as fast as possible."

This was my first food challenge, and I arrived with bright, hopeful eyes. I still believed with childlike naiveté that if I tried hard enough and really focused, I could complete the list of challenges set before me.

I was slightly shocked when the plate of pasta appeared from the kitchen. The meatball was easily the size of softball, and the bowl of spaghetti looked capable of feeding a family of four. I started by tearing into the meatball, stabbing at huge chunks with my fork. It was steaming hot (I burned my mouth on the first bite and tried not to cry) but surprisingly tender and tasty. Soon enough, the massive orb of meat and spice had disappeared. I held up my hands in victory. But then Ervin came back from the kitchen to check on my progress and quietly reminded me that the huge bowl of pasta and sauce still sat there, mostly untouched. Meanwhile, the meatball was lodged in my stomach, digesting glacially. But I soldiered on, twirling my fork in the pasta and tomato sauce.

Soon, however, I began to sweat and feel dizzy. I suddenly felt disgusting, like the glutton from Se7en. I attempted one last bite of spaghetti, scooped up a chunk of sauce and forced it into my unwilling mouth. Breathing heavily, I put my hand over my stomach and let out a mammoth belch -- it was the sound of defeat. Ultimately, there was just no room in me for the hill of pasta and sauce. (Ervin sardonically offered bread, but I did not partake.) I was ashamed, even after having eaten two pounds of meatball and roughly one pound of noodles.

Aftermath: My stomach remained distended for hours and hours as I lay on my couch, wondering what I had gotten myself into. For the next day, the mere thought of food made me slightly sick. Pepto-Bismol and I would become fast friends in the coming weeks.

Difficulty: ++++
Without years of training in some remote Russian compound, an elastic stomach and the ability to swallow a softball-size object whole, I don't see how a regular human being could possibly win this challenge.

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38 comments
TripleRPhotography
TripleRPhotography

How does the Inferno compare to the level 100 bowl at the Pearl Cafe? I'm working on my second King of Spice (next is level 50 again) just so I can get the black t-shirt. I got paint on my white one. I'd never try to eat volume, but I do love the spice!

Chris M. Jessen
Chris M. Jessen

I would like to see a restaurant offer a different kind of eating challenge... one where you eat a reasonable portion and then place a few dollars on a "gift card" for the homeless, to be redeemed at any number of downtown restaurants for food.

Tania Novak
Tania Novak

With all the hungry people in the world and the overwhelming amount on food stamps, I think man vs food or any eating competion is just plain wasteful. We need to do something a little more constructive with our time.

David Jones
David Jones

LOL Sounds like our run in with ghost chilis Jon Hiltz... I still want to try it though lol

Jon Hiltz
Jon Hiltz

David Jones check out the last one

Adam Usher
Adam Usher

What about Pearl Cafe's eating challenge?

Andrew Stapleton
Andrew Stapleton

Ha. I think I laughed after reading every challenge. Ready to try them myself.

Charlie Hasseldiek
Charlie Hasseldiek

Josh Call ten Braun I didn't read it but it sounds like your bag...baby

estielmo
estielmo

Personally, I think food challenges are weird, but that's just me. I had the good fortune to work at Pointers for a couple years and observed the Pointersaurus Challenge a few times. You could never tell from physique how well they would do.
The one thing I always noted that beyond the gluttony factor of the challenge the pie itself is an impressive thing to behold. It was always a joy to me to see the eyes of the people in an office or school when I walked in the door. It is a party pizza beyond compare!

Randall Santel
Randall Santel

I have completed the important 4. I only do spicy challenges for money and even then I don't like them. & the reuben & burger one is just really small Chris Haggard. That's a good article though!! He should have at least done a little research before attempting them. He just needs Foodchallenges.com which will be live in April!

Chris Haggard
Chris Haggard

Randall Santel have you completed all of these?

AJ Purdy
AJ Purdy

need to tell him to come to stony hill missouri and try our burger challenge

Robert Clyburn
Robert Clyburn

I have attempted a couple of these. Reading his experience made me laugh and wince all at once.

Scott Plackemeier
Scott Plackemeier

They all sound like mild torture to be honest. And I think the last one violates the Geneva Convention.

Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Well, you are a brave guy. And this will help me in my future trip to St. Louis to know where to dine. The Whistle Stop is surely on my agenda.

Elli Snyder
Elli Snyder

I might have tried this when I was younger and dumber. I once won an ice cream eating contest.

1234
1234

meanwhile, in places of the world where people are starving to death............

bridgework125
bridgework125

So…how much have YOU donated to feeding the homeless, lately?  Or, are you just making yourself "appear" to be compassionate; making yourself "feel" better with your intentions?  Lead by example, my friend.

bridgework125
bridgework125

You take the lead, Tania.  Tell us what you've done to feed the hungry people in the world.  Be specific.

jeffamullersman
jeffamullersman

I've taken Pearl Cafes Challenge and passed level 25. That place is awesome. Food is amazing!

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