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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 Hauck

Radio host Curtis McSchmurtis watches the 12-pound pizza cooking

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Dough being made at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee.

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Writer Marissa Conrad tries to push through.

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Presenting the pie at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Marissa Conrad at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Curtis 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 Hauck

Curtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Curtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at the Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

 (Photograph: Darren Hauck)
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Photograph: Darren Hauck

Curtis McSchmurtis, left, and Marissa Conrad, right, at Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee

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.

RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best pizza in Chicago

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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