On Jan 4, a crowd of 40 people gathered at Downtown Café, eagerly watching “Tailgate Takedown,” an hour-long collaboration between the NFL and Food Network. The national spotlight showcased Glen Cove’s John Zozzaro and colleague Angelo Competiello from New Jersey, both of whom are avid food and sports enthusiasts. The duo was contracted to keep the episode’s ending a secret, which kept their friends and family on the edge of their seats before the winners were announced.
Zozzaro and Competiello were selected as the episode’s winners by a rotating panel of Food Network judges, after which they were rushed to the 50-yard line and received their own Yum-Bardi Trophy and grand prize of $300.
Domenico Tolomeo, a longtime friend to Zozzaro and Competiello, said he isn’t surprised by the results.
“Knowing their capabilities as chefs, I knew they’d be a challenge to whoever they went up against.”
Their journey to fame began when the duo met at a pizza expo in Italy. From there, the two became instant friends. Although they have separate businesses, they have swapped recipes over the years. Presently, Zozzaro owns Pizza Company 7, a food truck with a 3,000-pound Neapolitan wood burning pavesi pizza oven. Competiello owns his own catering and consulting business.
Last year, Competiello was approached by Food Network and asked if he wanted to be part of the show. He knew immediately that Zozzaro was the best person to be his teammate.
“I thought of John because we have a similar work ethic,” Competiello said. “We’re good teammates, John has always got my back.”
After a few Zoom interviews, the duo were selected to compete in one episode.
In each episode, Food Network's Sunny Anderson and New England Patriots Hall-of-Famer Vince Wilfork welcome two teams of talented tailgating duos outside a stadium on game day, one representing their home turf and the other fans of the visiting team.
The episode was taped at MetLife Stadium on the day the New York Giants faced the Dallas Cowboys for Monday Night Football. The show consisted of three rounds of different tailgate types of food.
In the first round, known as "The First Down,” each team must create a platter of their best bite-sized snacks with a dip that represents their city's flavors. Zozzaro and Competiello created fritto misto, a lightly battered and deep-fried medley of fresh seafood and vegetables.
As the winners of round one, they got an advantage and selected an ingredient significant to their hometown that both teams must use in round two. In round two's "Between the Uprights" battle, the duos took their best handheld tailgate treat and cooked meatball sliders.
In the "Hail Mary" third round, each team must create a tailgate platter of a meat and two sides that would make their hometown proud. For this round, the duo knew calzones would be a hit with the judges.
“We just made the most of it and had so much fun,” Zozzaro said.