The charms of Main St. prove to be quite filling

September 30, 1999|By Michael Olesker

SOMEWHERE up there in Finksburg is Steve Addicks, veteran of the legendary Polack Johnny's sausage-eating contests, certified champion eater of Italian hoagies, and you don't want to be around when he feels the need to belch.

That's Addicks' color photograph in front of the Giulianova Grocery, on Main Street in Westminster. Addicks is the one rising from the table, a pained expression on his bearded face, his fingers tenderly splayed across his belly, which seems to be expanding right before everybody's eyes.

The Carroll County Times ran the picture on its front page a few weeks back, the day after Addicks downed seven -- it seems impossible, but there were honest judges and many other observers keeping count -- seven actual hoagies in 30 minutes in the Italian Hoagie Eating Contest put together by Tony D'Eugenio.

Tony's the old East Baltimore guy who moved up to Westminster 13 years ago and opened the Giulianova Grocery. Then he got the hoagie contest idea. He saw Addicks, and immediately knew two things: the contest was a winner, and in Addicks, he beheld the countenance of a champion.

"The guy was an animal," D'Eugenio was saying the other day, as he and his assistant, Cheryl Flickinger, put together a series of lunchtime hoagies for a line of customers. "And I say that in the nicest possible way."

D'Eugenio stood beneath a homemade sign happily declaring, "Philly Cheese Steak, 887 calories." For serious dieters, this is not necessarily the place. For counters of calories, off the boards. But, for taste, this place is a must.

And for fun (and for charity), so was the hoagie-eating contest. And that's what D'Eugenio -- known to many as Tony D -- had in mind. Westminster's Main Street is a small delight waiting to be discovered by those outside Carroll County. A hoagie-eating contest brings a little attention to the place, and much laughter.

"This is Norman Rockwell country," says Nathan Feinstein, trimming a customer's hair in the barbershop a few yards away from the hallowed hoagie-eating grounds.

"All charm," says Calvin Bloom, owner of the shop. "But we're this close. ...

He holds two fingers slightly apart. Main Street has an antique shop here, and another there. It's got the Locust Book Store, which mainlines on charm, and some knickknack places, a couple of restaurants and a French pastry place due to open soon.

"This street is trying to sell unique," says Bloom. He stands in the doorway of his shop like Floyd the barber in the old Andy Griffith show. The whole block has a slight Mayberry feel.

"We gotta be unique," says Bloom, "because it's the only way to compete with the shopping malls. The malls are the same, with the same chain stores. That's not this block. We need more crafts shops, handmade stuff. This block is unique, only we need more of it, so people will discover us."

Thus, in search of unique, came Tony D'Eugenio's idea for the great hoagie-eating contest. Everybody says it was beautiful to behold. Along with the great eating, there was much Italian opera and folk music, and the contest raised money for the Carroll County Arts Council's Music Instrument Bank, which cleans and repairs donated instruments for kids who can't afford them.

"We had a ball," D'Eugenio was saying the other day. "Twelve contestants. The basic rules for hoagie contests. You know, no spitting or foul language. No more than 10 seconds between hoagies. Thirty minutes to eat. The usual rules.

"We had a Westminster K-9 cop, Mack Berard, who ate five hoagies. We had two women insurance agents. A blacksmith named Daniel Bielecki, a real big guy. And they're all trying to eat these hoagies with a quarter-pound of Italian lunch meats and cheeses, and lettuce and tomatoes, and imported olive oil.

"But this guy Addicks, the winner, I knew right away he was special. He asked me if he could wet the rolls. I said, 'What?' He said, 'Yeah, dunk the rolls in water.' See, it's something he learned before. He competed in those Polish sausage contests that Polack Johnny used to hold down on The Block, where everybody was an animal. So I knew we had something special here."

Seven hoagies in 30 minutes is what he had. Then, as the big crowd on Main Street cheered, Addicks rose from his seat to aid the digestive process, and to accept his awards of a certificate and several types of antacids. How did he consume seven hoagies?

"I was hungry," he explained.

"He was hungry," Tony D'Eugenio echoed. "Is that great?"

It is. Also great is the sense of potential here: not only for hoagie contests, but a special niche waiting to develop on Westminster's Main Street, with its Mayberry charms, its unique little stores, and the hoagies so good you want to eat seven at a time.

Pub Date: 09/30/99

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