Carmine Santa Maria has finally met the man who can put away more spumoni than he can.
Our very own Big Screecher said he expected an easy victory going into the fourth annual Ice Cream-Eating Contest on Aug. 19 at L & B Spumoni Gardens on 86th Street between W. 10th and W. 11th streets in Bensonhurst.
“I love their spumoni, and I really expected to win,” our esteemed columnist said, adding that he thought he had a physical edge on his opponents when it came to tackling one of the two-and-a-half-gallon tubs of the nut-laden pistachio, vanilla, and chocolate ice cream. “If you put two of those containers together, it would be about the size of my waist. So you’d think I could fit the most of anybody.”
But when the 15 minutes allotted to the contestants were up, Santa Maria had gulped down just a paltry two quarts of the Italian delicacy — compared to more than twice as much as contestant Ron Rondon, a resident of the Marlboro Houses across the street. The Big Screecher was shocked.
“He ate half that container. I couldn’t believe it. I was eating pretty consistent, and I only ate two inches off the top,” said Santa Maria, who began putting away spumoni more than 70 years ago as a boy growing up on Mott Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
Maria “Ice Cream Girl” Campanella, who co-founded the contest with state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bensonhurst), said she was also betting on Ol’ Carmine.
“I though Carmine was going to be in the lead because he started off good, making his dents,” said the Bensonhurst fixture. “But Ron, he didn’t stop, he just went spoon to mouth, spoon to mouth.”
Carmine said his mistake was not watching Rondon closely, and instead sitting atop Tornado at the opposite end of the table of a dozen-plus entrants, where his buddies from the Bensonhurst West End Community Council were rooting him on.
“To tell you the truth, I was so busy posing for the cameras with the spoon, and I had my own cheering squad down there, I couldn’t see what the competition was doing,” said Santa Maria. “I have no excuses for losing. But I know next time to get where the action is.”
Rondon, who’d entered the contest three times before without taking the title, was triumphant in his success.
“This year it was redemption. I’ve never won a big contest like this before, so I’m having a great time here,” Rondon said, adding that he’d never tasted spumoni before Sunday, which was the first time the contest has featured the layered ice cream dish.
Both men swore to compete again in next year’s contest, which Campanella predicted would be closer if the two sat next to each other.
“If he and Ron sit next to each other they could see how much the other one had eaten, and it’d be a faster, crazier event,” the Ice Cream Girl said.
For Rondon, it’s all about those that the competition helps out — this year, the Frankie Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a group fighting childhood cancer, founded by the family of a neighborhood teen who died from leukemia.
“As long as it’s for a good cause, I’ll be there,” Rondon said.