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Milwaukee road trip: Pizza-eating challenge

Taking on a 12-pound pizza.
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckRadio host Curtis McSchmurtis watches the 12-pound pizza cooking
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckDough being made at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee.
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckWriter Marissa Conrad tries to push through.
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckPresenting the pie at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckPizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckMarissa Conrad at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckCurtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, start their pizza-eating challenge at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee.
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckCurtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckCurtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at the Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren HauckCurtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee
By Marissa Conrad |
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MEET THE EXPERT Curtis McSchmurtis, Wisconsin State Fair cream puff–eating champ and radio host

How many napkins does it take to blot the grease off a 12-pound pizza? I’m about to find out at Milwaukee’s Pizza Shuttle(1827 N Farwell Ave, 414-289-9993), where the pie, at a 28-inch diameter, barely fits on a table for four. It’s topped with pepperoni and sausage—house rules for the Largest Wisconsin Pizza contest (advance reservations required, $50), which dares teams of two to finish the monster in 45 minutes, dangling the carrot of a $500 prize and sweet, sweet bragging rights. I’m teamed with Curtis McSchmurtis (a stage name he carries into his real life), a cream puff–eating champion and cohost of quippy morning radio show Connie and Curtis.

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Two minutes in, I’m confident we—the 112-pound writer and the radio jockey who had two minutes ago confided that the cream-puff contest was about speed, not quantity—have this thing locked up. Our strategy: Fold each slice to maximize intake over time. The pizza is terrific, straddling the line between thin-crust and deep-dish. The fact that each doughy triangle is wider than my spread-out hand? Easy to ignore, especially when my friends unveil a five-foot sign with my face on it: marissa vs. food. eat like a champion today!

And I do, for about 25 minutes. That’s when our videographer points out that a family of 20 has ordered the same pizza. Twenty, he emphasizes. “Stop drinking water!” Curtis admonishes me. “I can’t swallow!” I shriek, my face covered in sauce and grease dripping down my forearm. With children gaping, I start my third slice. Curtis plows into a three-piece stack.

But, like the dozens of wanna-be pizza conquistadors before us (in four years, only two teams have finished), victory is out of reach. With nine minutes and a third of the pie left, we throw in the grease-soaked napkin to a mixture of embarrassment and relief. Our consolation prize? An 18-hour stomachache—and two scoops of frozen custard, which we happily accept. We are in Milwaukee, after all.

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