Each year at about this time, Bigelow Grille Chef Anthony Zallo asks himself the same question: What did I get myself into?
That'd be the annual Taste of the NFL, the big fundraiser on the eve of the Super Bowl that benefits food banks in NFL cities across the country, including the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Then he remembers: Because the feeling of raising money to feed hungry families is "just awesome."
Chef Zallo has been representing the Pittsburgh Steelers at TNFL since its start in 2008, serving upward of 2,000 small plates of gourmet food that's "footballish" while also representative of Pittsburgh. This year's dish is a favorite sandwich from childhood that's also on the menu at Bigelow Grille: Homemade Mortadella with Pickled Eggplant, Hand-Pulled Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomato Jam.
"There's so many Italians in Pittsburgh," he says, "and it's a sandwich, which is an awesome tailgate food."
He'll start today making the 110 pounds of beef-and-pork sausage he plans on using, while continuing to pickle some 60 pounds of eggplant. He made the jam this summer with local tomatoes. The 20 pounds of cheese was donated.
TNFL will be held Feb. 1 at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on Pier 12 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Tickets cost $700 at tasteofthenfl.com.