Pizza power: How to lose to sauce, cheese and a lot of meat

(When trying to each an 11-pound pizza, I wrote a check my mouth couldn’t cash.)

KENNESAW, Ga. – I got my butt kicked – by a slice of pizza, in front of my best friend and his two kids.

It was a sweltering hot night in Atlanta when myself, Will Hammock and his two kids, 6-year-old Dylan and 8-year-old Bryn jumped in his Toyota Highlander, turned up Radio Disney and made the hour-long journey from his home in Gwinnett County to Cobb County to become legends.

All that stood in the way at Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria was an 11-pound, 30-inch pizza topped with enough pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage and ground beef to feed a small village in Guatemala.

“You want to hear my spiel for the Carnivore Challenge,” our server, Lauren asked.

“I paid $47.17 for a pizza,” I replied. “What do you think?”

Welcome to an 11-pound, 30-inch pizza. A perfect meal for two. (Photos by Jon Gallo)

“OK,” she said with a smile. “You two get an hour to finish the entire pizza. But there are rules. First, you can’t go outside and take a smoke break and you can’t throw up.”

“Can I go to the bathroom?” I asked.

“Yes, but I have to stand outside the door to make sure you aren’t throwing up,” she responded.

How many people have thrown up?

“I’ve been here six months and I’ve seen three people do it, but two made it to the bathroom,” she told us. “If you look like you’re getting sick, we’ll bring a trash can. If you finish, you get $250.”

“Sweet, I have the down payment for my angioplasty,” I thought.

For the record, 3,000 eaters – 1,500 teams – have taken the Carnivore Challenge, including Adam Richman of “Man v. Food,” who was not among the eight teams whose faces should be etched on Mount Rushmore.

Will and I weren’t among the champions, either. But we were certainly dressed for success. Will wore his navy “Hammock’s Taxidermy” T-shirt.

“Since I’m about to eat all this meat of dead animals, I have to show them who’s boss,” he said, wearing the T-shirt promoting his uncle’s Alabama-based business with pride.

I came to Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria in Kennesaw, Ga., but by no means did I conquer it.

I wore my red, University of Georgia themed, “Glory Is Forever” T-shirt, which by the end of the night should have read, “Glory is Forever, unless you get your butt kicked by a pizza in the same manner as Tim Tebow sticking it to the Bulldogs.”

The pizza arrives and I’m relieved. If the heat wave continued, we could always fold it into a tent. It would provide shade for four, easy.

After spending five minute taking pictures with it like it was Mickey Mouse at Disney World, we dig in.

I have the cutter, which is good for me, bad for Will. Of the eight slices, I give him the second-biggest, while taking the second-smallest.

Heck, if we both finish just one piece, I’ll say I won because I finished mine first. This competition was rigged more than the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery, except I got bragging rights bigger than Patrick Ewing.

I stared at the pizza. I haven’t seen this much meat since watching NFL prospects get poked and prodded before the combine.

I look at my piece. I look at the six others – three of which have my name on it if we are going get our name on the restaurant’s walls and become immortalized.

No way this is happening. Charlie Brown had a better chance of kicking a football held by Lucy than I had finishing more than one piece, even though I didn’t shave for a week because I was confident my facial hair could catch any chunks of meat that missed my mouth.

“Here are your weapons,” Will said as he handed me a fork and knife to place beside my silver pizza pan – did you really think we’d eat off paper plates?

The pizza is awesome, the cheese is creamy, the meat is juicy and the crust is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I feel good because I’m canceling out all the fat and calories because cutting this sucker required exercise.

Thirteen minutes later, I take down slice No. 1. I swear, I’m starting to sweat a combination of salt and mozzarella.

I step outside for a breath of fresh air.

We just lost.

But at least I beat Will, who is laboring through his first – and only – piece.

My thrill of victory doesn’t last long.

“Gallo,” Dylan said. “You finished first because you can just eat faster.”

Clean plate club: I display the plate – I mean pan – given to those who attempt the Carnivore Challenge.

But the pizza isn’t just a pizza. It’s a tourist attraction. The kids from the table next to us can’t take their eyes off it while trying not to be noticed, like how you can’t take your eyes off a car wreck. Their mother, Paulette, tells them to “get away.”

Was she scared the pizza was going to devour them? Maybe, we’ll never know.

So we give the family visiting from Jupiter, Fla., three pieces, one for Paulette, one for 8-year-old Tanner and one for 10-year-old Taylor, who gaze at the pizza as if their golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory before chowing down.

“You just made their year,” Paulette told me.

Lauren returns to survey the carnage.

“I had one piece, so how does that compare to the 3,000?” I asked.

“That’s what about half the people do, they eat one slice,” she replied. “They come in here and think, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ and one piece later they are done. You did good.”

Defeat, or in this case “def-eat,” never tasted so good.