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Best Of 2023 - An Unbiased Review Of Dave Portnoy's Controversial "One Bite Pizza Fest"

I've DJ'd my fair share of events that were clouded in controversy over the past 20 years. Back in the Stoolapalooza days we were banned from UMass and told if we stepped foot in Amherst again we'd be arrested because Dave got on the mic after Sammy Adams and told the Mullins Center crowd to meet us at Hobart to party and the school admins lost their minds. You would have thought he was espousing communism on stage. Nope, just echoing what everybody in Western Massachusetts already knew the plan was. 

It seemed like every other Blackout show we did had some form of controversy, taking the form of actual organized protests (shout out KO Barstool), to Bible thumpers in South Carolina picketing outside one of our show venues claiming we were spreading satan's work through our music and shows. We famously had one of the most famous venues in the country, The Roseland Ballroom in New York City, which has played host to some of the rowdiest bands and concerts the world has ever seen, scared Barstool's roving band of DJs and interns turned stage hands who moonlighted as mascot dancers, were coming to town they considered pulling the plug. We were on all the local New York City news channels leading off at 5 o'clock. The NYC Police Chief held a press conference to quell the publics fears. A scene straight out of Ghostbusters.

Except it was real life.

We threw one of the best Super Bowl parties ever in Miami, where we had 8,000 guests show up for a party that could hold 5,000, including the who's who of Super Bowl weekend across the athletic and celebrity arenas, only to be done in by a pop-up monsoon that dumped inches of water on our outdoor, tented venue in minutes. The city's fire marshall showed up and threatened to strangle us if we didn't shut down and evacuate the event. He was beyond irate. The situation was perfectly encapsulated by Shooter McGavin drowning while making a call for help.

 

We weren't even mad. Or surprised. It was just par for the course with throwing Barstool parties. We announce a party. Demand goes through the roof. A shit ton of people show up. They have the best time ever. Shit show ensues. We get yelled and screamed at by people like we were committing a crime.

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I thought these days were long behind me. 

So imagine my astonishment when I learned that I was performing at perhaps the most controversial event in Barstool Sports history last week when I turned on the television in my hotel room in Cleveland and saw Dave's face pop up on it. As I scrolled the channels, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the story was being talked about. Dave was actually on Jesse Waters' show on Fox News talking about a once reputable media outlet, The Washington Post, the former home of world-renowned journalist Carl Bernstein (broke the Watergate story, ever heard of him), slandering Dave's pizza fest, attempting to intimidate and shame the participating pizzerias because a couple of their employees had personal vendettas against Dave and Barstool. 

A tale as old as time sadly.

Except this time was different. 

This wasn't a party to keep a growing media company's lights on and bread on Kevin Clancy, Keith Markovich, and Dan Katz' tables like we were in the Blackout days. Nor was it a victory lap party to show how we didn't need to lure athletes and celebrities to our Super Bowl party by booking cliche, 6-figure musical acts, and handing out expensive swag bags, because they wanted to come on their own. 

No.

This was a freaking PIZZA PARTY. 

An innocent, all-ages event in a minor league baseball stadium in Coney Island, NY. 

What the hell could they possibly be up in arms about? Especially to go to these kinds of lengths?

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It truly was surreal. 

When my plane was finally able to land in Newark airport thanks to the weather letting up, and I made my way to Brooklyn, I didn't know what to expect upon pulling up. 

I texted Dave earlier that morning asking what the status was and he replied we were a full go "rain or shine". Adam from Medium Rare, the event and production company putting the event on said the same.

The weather couldn't have been worse.

It was dark, dreary, and the rain was coming down consistently. Everything was soaked. Traffic was extra brutal. My hopes for a decent turnout were low. Surely nobody in their right mind would want to come stand out in this weather for 4-6 hours, right?

Wrong.

These people loved pizza, and loved Portnoy, and some not in that order. As my uber pulled up to the entrance on Surf Ave I was astonished at not just how many people were in line to get in, (holding umbrellas, or decked out in full rain gear), but also at how elaborate the setup was.

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And not just on the outside. When I got inside the gates, I couldn't believe how elaborate and well-organized everything was. (Where the hell has Medium Rare been our whole lives?)

The thing I was most blown away by, besides the thousands of people who had been inside the stadium already for over an hour, housing slices of pizza, was the way the food tents were arranged, the lines in front of them moved efficiently, and the staggering amount of ovens. 

This setup was insanely complex. 

There were 35 pizzerias (we'll get to them in a minute). Adam Richman, co-founder of Medium Rare, told me they had to source and bring in more than 50 ovens. And not just any ovens. These aren't just run-of-the-mill pizza makers we're talking about here. These are true Pizzaioli (Pizzaiolo's) we're talking about. Artists. Experts in their craft. 

If you asked Leonardo to repaint you the Mona Lisa, he's not going to tell you to just grab some Sherwin Williams buckets and brushes at Home Depot for him.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise how difficult it was for the One-Bite team to meet these high standards…

And honestly, after walking around and trying all my favorite places, (which again, we'll get to in a minute, but I'm still in disbelief how Dave was able to bring them all together for this event) I was floored to see and taste how close to perfect everything turned out.

I mean we were talking far, far, far from ideal circumstances here. These pizza teams weren't on their homefields, they weren't even in kitchens, they were in makeshift tents, without their trusted, broken-in ovens, outside in the pouring rain. 

The fact they were still pumping out pizzas that looked like this was mind-blowing.

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Now for the pizzerias. 

I don't think the general public had any idea the caliber of places Dave assembled for this event. 

We literally had THE BEST OF THE BEST of pizzerias in the United States, all at this place. And they weren't just coming from the Burroughs of New York either. This wasn't an easy trip for places like Angelo's from Philly,

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Or legit pizza royalty in Sally's and Pepe's from New Haven,

(Sidebar- the Sally's guys did this right in my face and it was like having my heart ripped out. Really happy for Dave, and obviously he deserved it, #001 VIP card for life, but I would have been crying tears of joy grateful if they threw me #247. Just saying.)

He also got the freaking man himself, Mark Iacono, from legendary Lucali, to take some time off from entertaining guests like David Beckham, Tom Brady, and Aaron Judge at his pizzeria to show up and sling dough.

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If it's not starting to make sense to you now why the mainstream media, and these self-important, gatekeeping "foodie journalists" were so pissed off about Dave and this event, let me make it simple for you. One word. Envy.

None of these publications, with all of their "pull", or pay-to-play schemes, or fabricated clout could ever assemble a roster of pizza talent half as elite as Dave did. 

And he didn't have to bend over backward for any of them, or bribe them, or anything. They all did it because they genuinely wanted to participate, they love Barstool, love Dave, and appreciate everything he did to help them and their breathen survive, by raising $30 million dollars while our federal and state governments had their heads up their asses during covid.

We did a segment on stage in front of a ridiculous crowd,

where Dave attempted to do a blindfolded taste test of 6 pizza slices. *Full disclosure here, I tried all week to coordinate this with Dave. He didn't think it needed any coordination. Yet when we were up on stage, he didn't even know which 6 places he had to guess from, so essentially, he was shooting completely in the dark, guessing which slice was which from one of the 35 pizza joints we had there.

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So the fact he nailed 2 out of the 6 is more impressive than it looks at face value.

We also had primo entertainment talent on board for this event, and I'm not referring to myself. 

When I saw Teddy Swims was booked to headline, I immediately reached out to Dave, after fist-pumping to myself. 

"Sweet, Dave read my blogs on Teddy from 2021 and has been following his meteoric rise that I predicted"

Turned out nope, Caleb told Dave to book him. 

No big deal. A wins a win. 

And Teddy did not disappoint.

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He crushed. His voice is seriously even more incredible in person.

Pup Punk came on after him and in a downpour, put on a hell of a show. I tweeted this later that night, but Caroline's voice is unreal. Not just for a Barstool personality, but legit. She is the real deal.

Because of the time push back and the water-logged mic lines I got pushed back and played for the pizza staff's and the stage hands (rough) but I didn't care. It was the end of a great day and what turned out to be a monumentally huge success. It was also one of the happiest times I’ve ever seen Dave. 

And it was only fitting that the enemies sent their spies which everybody knew was going to happen. 

But Dave wouldn't have been Dave without addressing them all

I stood in Dave's suite after Teddy performed, trying to dry off a little bit, and watched as one after another of the pizzeria owners came up to the booth, presented Dave with a custom pizza, presents (like that Sally's lifetime VIP black card), and heaped praise on him. Some ladies, like Maggie who now owns Di Fara teared up thanking Dave for all he's done for them and for everybody in the industry. This wasn't on camera and it sucks because this is the kind of stuff these clowns at Washington Post, or New York Times, or whoever else goes out of their way to try to take down Barstool doesn't get. And they never will understand. It's simple. "It's the people stupid." Dave and Barstool have the backing of the people, the common sense, level-headed, good-hearted, hard-working people, and always will.

People like this beauty from Luigi's Pizzeria

All in all, I give the first annual One-Bite Pizza Fest 5 Balls and I legitimately cannot wait until next year. 

Totals from this event, according to Medium Rare, were over 5,000 attendees, and over 15,000 pizzas served. For a total wash out I'd say that's pretty damn impressive. Next year is going to be incredible.

p.s.- the merch line was one of the longest lines the entire day long. If you struck out or didn't feel like waiting, good news, you can grab it on sale now in The Barstool Store.

p.p.s. - if you missed Dave's official, biased review of the fest here it is

and here's what he told Fox News

Fox News - Barstool Sports founder and small business star Dave Portnoy has faced criticism from the Washington Post for his first-of-its-kind "One Bite" pizza festival, but, despite this strategic provocation and severe weather conditions, the celebration was a success. 

"It couldn't have gone better. It's our Woodstock moment with the rain. 5,000 people strong. Everyone had a great time. The vibes are actually probably higher because of the controversy surrounding it. So, yeah, it went great," Portnoy said during his Sunday appearance on "Fox & Friends Weekend."

"I think the fact that she was a food reporter and not necessarily in this world, she was just caught off guard. And then she did reveal, though, I don't want to say the secret sauce, but the unfortunate truth that they aren't after the truth. They're just trying to create negative headlines and get clicks," Portnoy proclaimed Sunday.

Portnoy also directed shade at food writer J. Kenji López-Alt, who was allegedly "obsessed" with trying to get people not to partake in the festival.

"I was talking to a lot of the pizza places and some of the people, like this guy Kenji López - who is just obsessed with trying to get people not to partake - he was emailing the pizza places literally the night before, getting their private information and shaming them. Being like, 'it's not too late to drop out.' Your like, dead dad would be ashamed of you. It was pretty crazy," he said. 

"The thing about the hit piece is, what they try to do, whether it's those or The Washington Post, if you can just get one sponsor to drop, one pizza place to drop, which none of them did…so I owe them a huge thank you. That becomes a story in itself."