East Lyme crowd has appetite for sandwich-eating contest

Gena Morin, 10, of Manchester, and Grace Majka, 10, of Simsbury, spin as fast as they can on the Tubs of Fun ride at the St. John's Carnival taking place on the church green just down the street from the Celebrate East Lyme event on Main Street on Saturday.

East Lyme - One day, they'll think of this town the way they think of Coney Island.

As the Brooklyn, N.Y., resort is synonymous with hot dog eating, so shall Niantic be forever linked to the competitive consumption of Giuliano's Monster breakfast sandwiches.

That, at least, is the dream of Jack Giuliano and his son Joseph, who run Giuliano's Bakery on Niantic's Main Street, where the Monster is a regular on the menu.

With Celebrate East Lyme, the town's annual street festival, in full swing Saturday, the Giulianos hosted the first of what they promised would be their annual Monster Sandwich Eating Contest, offering $500 to the man - or woman, though there was none in the field - who could wolf down the most Monsters in 30 minutes.

Wayne Moniz, the Giuliano's chef who prepared the Monsters, described what he slapped into each one: "Four slices of bacon; one sausage patty; one slice of ham; one ribeye steak; two large eggs; and two slices of American cheese - on a fresh hard roll."

Gentlemen, start your digestive systems.

Jack Giuliano, microphone in hand, provided the play-by-play.

Geno Dacunto, 21, and Andrew Longhenry, 28, the last two contestants standing - make that sitting, most decidedly sitting - provided the drama. By the time they neared the end of their fourth Monster, five other starters had dropped out, more or less literally.

The crowd around the Giulianos' tent grew several layers deep. As people counted down the final seconds, Dacunto polished off sandwich No. 4, washing the last mouthful down with a swig of water. Then another. And another.

Mercifully, it all stayed down.

Longhenry rose to his feet without so much as the aid of a crane, perhaps not so sorry to concede.

"I could use a cookie," he quipped minutes later.

Dacunto, a chef at Ray's Pizza in Niantic, another Main Street mainstay, said he figured before the contest that he'd be happy to get through three of the sandwiches.

How did he feel to be on the verge of attempting a fifth?

"Like throwing up," he said.

The Giulianos were already eyeing the future.

"Next year we're going to charge an entry fee and give it to charity," Jack Giuliano said.

"We saw what a hit Coney Island was with the hot dogs," his son added. "Maybe some day we can get to that level."

Saturday's Celebrate event continued throughout the evening, with a fireworks display capping the festivities. Hundreds of residents strolled Main Street, sampling all kinds of food, crafts and wares offered by local vendors and enjoying the live entertainment.



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