And the winner is ... an 8-lb. sandwich in take off of TV's 'Man vs. Food' show
ST. JOSEPH - Maybee he could, and Maybee he couldn't.
Luke Maybee finished the first slice of the mammoth 8-pound Quello Grande sandwich, an awesome 12 inches in diameter, in a brisk four minutes. So far, so good.
The second slice took him 12 minutes.
The third slice - well, Maybee was still working on that one when his one-tour time limit expired on Wednesday at Passero's Pizzeria in south St. Joseph. And there were five more slices to go to win the Quello Challenge.
What went wrong?
"It was a lot bigger than I thought it was," a stuffed Maybee said after time expired.
Restaurant owners Mario and Melanie Abbott have had the Quello Challenge up for several months, but Maybee, 33, of Ionia, was the first one to try it.
If anyone can finish the sandwich in an hour, plus a soft drink and a small bag of potato chips, they get one free pizza a month for a year. If they fail, they have to pay the restaurant $50.
Maybee, a CSX Transportation railroad worker, has been a regular customer at the restaurant for a number of weeks. He was a little jittery before the contest started.
"I ate an apple for breakfast and an apple for lunch, enough to keep myself going, but maybe room for tonight," Maybee said. "I'm kind of nervous about it, but I'm going to give it my best shot."
A number of fellow CSX employees were on hand to offer encouragement.
"Pace yourself!" "One bite at a time." "You're chewing too much! Forget what your mama told you." "You want some bread sticks with that?"
"What's up?" Mario Abbott asked him with about 10 minutes to go. "Hey, you still gotta eat the chips."
"I'm not gonna make it," Maybee confessed.
As time expired, his co-workers and others in the restaurant gave him a big round of applause. Melanie Abbott presented him with a Passero's T-shirt, "and, the best part, here's your bill."
While he didn't come close to finishing, Maybee said the sandwich was delicious. As Melanie bagged up the remains, Maybee said his co-workers were going to help him finally finish it.
Mario Abbott, who said the contest was inspired by the television show "Man v. Food," said "Quello Grande" "just means 'big sandwich' in Italian."
The recipe is simple, Abbott said - 1 pound of cheese, 1 pound of salami, 1 pound of ham, 1 pound of roast beef, 1 pound of turkey, lettuce, onion, and the restaurant's "special sauce."
The bread was made at the restaurant, as is all the bread and crust at the restaurant, he said.
The Abbotts, who live in Baroda, have owned the restaurant since May. "I also do hair," Melanie said, but added she helps out at the restaurant as much as she can.
Melanie said it's been "a great experience" running the restaurant, and she and Mario plan to keep at it for a long time.
"We want to hand it down to our kids," Melanie said. "Keep it in the family."
Passero's Pizza is on South Cleveland Avenue in St. Joseph Township, just south of Hilltop Road.