Andy McIntyre has been in serious training for Sunday’s big event for two weeks.
“I joined a gym,” says the 27-year-old Pasadena caterer. He’s been puffing away on the stair-climbing machine and lifting weights. And despite his on-the-job temptations, he’s paying strict attention to diet, trying to avoid fats altogether.
Early on Sunday, he will slip into comfortable clothes and head to the Pasadena Convention Center.
While 20,000 runners sweat out the 26.2-mile course of the Los Angeles Marathon, McIntyre will be tackling a race with a different flavor at the annual Pizza Expo. He will try to better his own “personal best” record, which was set last year at 16 pieces of pizza in just four hours.
“Pepperoni, I followed with Bud; the other slices I washed down with Perrier,” says McIntyre, explaining the secret of his success. He’s hoping his pre-Expo workouts will help undo Sunday’s caloric damage.
About 2,000 other pizza lovers are expected at this year’s Expo, says Peter Dills, a Pasadena event producer who founded it. Last year’s event drew about 1,400. Dills expects pizza consumption to top last year’s total of about 12,000 slices.
About 25 restaurants--most from the Pasadena area--will set up booths, displaying their best pizza offerings, which will be cooked on the premises in giant pizza ovens.
“There will be spicy Malaysian pizza, a granny apple pizza, a Southwestern style with turkey chorizo, and Crocodile Cafe’s bacon, lettuce and tomato pizza,” Dills says. “Where else but in California can you actually sample over 50 different kinds of pizza all in one day? . . . So don’t ask for a hamburger. You won’t get it here! This is a pizza lover’s dream.”
Throughout the day, the Andy Cowan Quintet will play music to eat by. “They do Frank Sinatra-type tunes, spaghetti-in-your-face kind of music,” Dills says.
It’s a day, pizza veterans say, to come in your jeans, the very loosest ones you own, or other comfortable duds for pigging out. A day to forget that the average slice of pizza--sans greasy toppings--has 300 calories. A day to ignore the fact that to work off that single piece of pizza, a 150-pound person would have to jog for 15 minutes, walk one hour or sit still for nearly four hours.
Pizza pros can also dilute their guilt over gastronomic excess with altruism. Proceeds from the Expo go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pasadena, which provides after-school and summer camping activities for about 7,000 children and adolescents, most ages 6 to 17. Restaurant owners will donate their pizza makings and pay a $50 entry fee.
Altruistic or not, plain cheese pizza types and those with dainty appetites are probably better left home. Consider the two pizza creations that Chipper Pastron, co-owner of the Market City Caffe will bring: a breakfast pizza and spinach pizza.
“The breakfast pizza has Italian cream cheese, sliced apples, toasted almonds and cinnamon sugar,” he says. The fresh spinach pizza, which also has fresh mushrooms, sounds deceivingly low-calorie. Until you hear that Pastron liberally sprinkles pine nuts and ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses around the vegetables.
Besides his two famous pizzas, Pastron will tote along the fiberglass Holstein cow that usually stands in the window of his Fair Oaks Avenue restaurant.
The nameless cow, he says, seems to be back in the good graces of the Pasadena police, who ticketed the Holstein two years ago for obstructing the sidewalk. Pastron had nudged the cow outside to attract the eye of potential diners. (“Taped that ticket right on the cow’s nose,” Pastron recalls in disbelief.)
Dills, a former Boys and Girls Clubs member, initially proposed the idea for the Expo to Bob Monk, executive director of the clubs. Although reluctant at first, Monk took the gamble--and hasn’t been sorry. Last year, the Expo turned over $11,000 in proceeds to the clubs.
Monk will roll up his sleeves Sunday and keep watch over a pizza oven. Earlier this week, his appetite for pizza was already beyond the simmer stage--and for good reason: He had joined a strict weight-loss program that requires dieters to eat pre-packaged food.
“I hope to lose 60 pounds,” Monk says with a sigh. “But I am giving myself the day off on Sunday.”
FACTS ABOUT PIZZA
* Pizza got its start in prehistoric times when bread was cooked on hot stones.
* The modern cheese-and-tomato pizza was probably born in 1889 when an Italian tavern owner developed a pie with ingredients the colors (red, white and green) of the Italian flag--tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil.
* Pizza came to the United States when Italian immigrants brought it to New York and Chicago.
* Americans eat 90 acres of pizza a day.
* Kids age 3 to 11 prefer pizza over other foods for lunch and dinner, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
* Pepperoni is the most popular topping, followed by--in no particular order--mushrooms, extra cheese, green pepper and onion. The trendiest toppings are oysters, chicken, crayfish, dandelions, sprouts, Cajun shrimp and artichoke hearts.
* Creative pizza makers have tried a variety of other toppings, including mashed potatoes, jelly, bacon and eggs, and peanut butter.
* Traveling pizza eaters should expect to find exotic toppings abroad. In Japan, for instance, look for squid topping; in Australia, shrimp and pineapple; in Pakistan, curry, and red herring in the Soviet Union.
* About one in 10 restaurants is a pizzeria.
* October is National Pizza Month.
Source: National Assn. of Pizza Operators and its publication, Pizza Today. Pizza fiends can exercise their jaws from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the fourth annual Pizza Expo at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St. Tickets are $10 advance and $12.50 for procrastinators at the door. Cost includes all the pizza you can eat. Drinks are extra. For more information , call (818) 449-1953.