On your mark, get set, pig out.
Following the 33rd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade, the first annual Cannoli Eating Contest took place, held at the soon-to-be-completed Il Centro.
Much like during Coney Island’s famous annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest held during the summer, participants were given six minutes to stuff as many of the Italian pastries down their gullets as possible. The cannoli were provided by Bensonhurst bakery Villabate Alba, a staple in the community. The competition was hosted by the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Brooklyn (FIAO) and was on the Major League Eating schedule. Eight people participated in the contest, vying for $1,000 in prize money.
“It was spectacular. The parade had a lot of energy,” said George Shea, the head of MLE. “It was a neighborhood parade and crowd. There’s nothing better than that. The people were engaged the whole time and there were good vibes.”
Seventeen-year eating contest veteran Eric Booker tied for first place and enjoyed the Bensonhurst experience. “It was great. I was very much looking forward to it. I’ve done past cannoli eating contests so when I found out that Villabate was throwing one in Bensonhurst, I signed up immediately. It was a pretty big crowd,” said Booker who is also subway conductor for the Transit Authority.
Booker tied with Tim Janus, whom he has competed against in various competitions, including the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. They both finished eating nearly 27 cannoli. However, after the event, Janus said he accidentally received an extra plate, which gave him an unfair advantage. “Tim is a gracious, honest guy,” said Shea.
Shea was impressed by Booker’s performance and charisma. “I haven’t seen Booker eat like that in 10 years,” he said. “He was dancing throughout the contest and the crowd loved it.”
During the heated competition, Booker took time to enjoy the Villabate cannoli. “They were delicious,” he told this paper. “I had to stay focused for the contest and not eat them to just to enjoy them. It was the highlight of my day.”
Although this was the first cannoli contest in Bensonhurst, don’t expect it to be the last, said Shea. “We are already talking about increasing the contest in size next year. We would do it again in a heartbeat. I’ve done many events, some crowds of 40,000 people, but you could feel the connection and energy that day. It was lots of fun.”
“Win or lose, I would have had fun anyway. I will definitely be there next year,” added Booker.