NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – A little more than a year after Blackboard Pizza’s opening on North Avenue in New Rochelle, the gourmet kitchen will host an eating contest to benefit the Foodbank of Westchetser.
“Child hunger is something that’s close to my heart. We try to do anything that we can to try and give back,” says chef and owner Vinnie Gentile. “Putting money in our pockets is the last thing we’re thinking about. We really want to grow with this community.”
A portion of all $15 entrance fees will be donated to the Foodbank. Contestants will compete in a timed eating contest to take on “The Big Al,” a giant wrap made of grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, onion rings, Peach BBQ sauce and romaine lettuce stuffed in a jumbo-sized, 18-inch pizza dough. Contestants have 15 minutes to eat as much of the wrap as possible.
“The Big Al” is a flavor profile on the Blackboard menu and was named after Gentile’s father. “My dad’s a big guy,” he says of the nickname. The contest winner will receive a T-shirt, a picture with the original Big Al and a spot on the Blackboard “Wall of Fame.”
In the past, Blackboard raised donations through a pizza-eating contest with Iona College students to benefit the Foodbank, as well as a Toys for Tots drive.
“We’re trying to make it an annual thing,” said Gentile. “I’m a firm believer that if you invest in your community, your community will reinvest in you.”
Gentile grew up on Long Island and was cooking at upscale restaurants in New York City after attending the French Culinary Institute. He teamed up with his cousin Joe Schinco, a graduate of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania to create the fast, casual pizza restaurant with a feel that’s just a little off the beaten path.
“I’m a firm believer that food is an experience – it’s not just to throw something in your stomach. You can come in here and dog down a slice and be on your way, but we do have the ambience aspect, the fun aspect, the cool aspect, the different aspect to us and that’s what we’re trying to run with,” says Gentile, who said he and Schinco hope to open other Blackboard locations throughout Westchetser.
As for the eating contest, Gentile said they plan to continue events like this for the life of the business. The “Big Al Eating Challenge” will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. Enter the contest online at https://www.facebook.com/BlackboardPizzaShop. Blackboard Gourmet Pizza Shop is located at 628 North Ave., in New Rochelle.