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Tutti Matti's all-you-can-eat gnocchi night is only for the strong

When I learned that a restaurant in Long Island City hosted an all-you-can-eat gnocchi night, I knew this was the one NYC eating challenge I needed to take on.

Actually, Tutti Matti's $17 endless gnocchi Mondays are not a competition at all (you can't, for example, win a share of the restaurant or a plaque on the wall for eating more gnocchi than anyone else), but I was ready to take on the gnocchi in my own personal gorging challenge.

Hey, if you can't die eating what you love, why even eat at all? That was my motto for this self-inflicted carb overdose.

To prepare for my big gnocchi moment, I'd eaten the equivalent of a leaf for my 12 p.m. combo breakfast/lunch and had only two black coffees to fuel me throughout the afternoon. Outfitted in a stretchy dress and hungry for the 13 pounds of gnocchi chef Giovanni Vittorio Tagliafierro is said to make at Tutti Matti each Monday, I was ready for all the gnocchi I could eat.

The scene

Just a few blocks off the 7 train,
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Just a few blocks off the 7 train, I arrived at Tutti Matti (47-30 Vernon Blvd.), around 5 p.m., an excellent time to gorge on gnocchi. The restaurant's happy hour runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and offers $1 oysters, $5 beers and $7 wine, though it was fairly empty on a Monday. I checked in to my reservation for one (not necessary, but why not rack up some OpenTable points in this venture) and was seated in the back.

With no one around me to judge me
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

With no one around me to judge me a) for eating dinner on Monday at 5 p.m. b) for eating dinner so early and so alone c) for taking pictures of the mostly empty restaurant and d) for embarking on a personal gnocchi challenge, I settled into my seat and looked at the menu. I'd called that morning to ensure the all-you-can-eat gnocchi was still around, but it wasn't mentioned anywhere on Tutti Matti's menus.

An off-the-menu surprise ...

I nodded at the waiter who had poured
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I nodded at the waiter who had poured me New York City tap water, signaling that I had a very important question about all the pasta options laid out before me. "Hey," I said as he leaned over my table for two for one, "do you still serve the, uh, all-you-can-eat gnocchi?" I felt like I was making an illicit deal, but he assured me that yes, Monday was gnocchi night, and I said I needed a minute to think about it, just to look like less of a glutton.

A few sips of water later, I signaled that, yes, I had decided I would try out the all-you-can eat gnocchi, why not, I laughed, as if this was just something I'd decided to do on a whim, just for fun. I hoped my elastic, waistless dress that I'd picked for the occasion didn't give me away.

The first diversion arrives

After placing my order, I was presented with
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

After placing my order, I was presented with a basket of sliced Italian bread and breadsticks, an obvious distraction from the task at hand. I knew what they were up to and I wasn't going to fall for it.

I waited all of 20 seconds before breaking off a piece of a satisfyingly crunchy breadstick and smothering it into the red pepper dip. It was good, but it wasn't gnocchi. Stop, Melissa, control yourself. Perhaps if the restaurant were more crowded I would have slipped a few into my purse for a midnight snack, but I was one of three dinner guests at 5:44 p.m. and about 67 years too young to justify this behavior, so, like a true Millennial, I snapchatted the breadsticks with a variety of filters to distract myself until the real food arrived.

Bring on the gnocchi

Tutti Matti's gnocchi night consists of four types
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Tutti Matti's gnocchi night consists of four types of mix-and-match gnocchi -- pesto, Bolognese, Pomodoro and quattro formaggi -- all served out of clay bowls directly to your plate. Servers can pile it on or serve the gnocchi one scoop at a time, which I opted for, in order to keep the fresh and hot carbs coming. Unlike bottomless brunch, bottomless gnocchi has no official time limit -- you can eat until you're literally rolling onto Vernon Boulevard like, well, gnocchi.

The first plate

As someone who eats roughly half a box
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

As someone who eats roughly half a box of pasta each day (a quarter for lunch, a quarter for dinner, repeat), this plate didn't seem at all daunting. Four sauces! Homemade gnocchi! I could go all night. Note: This wide and shallow plate is deceiving -- there's actually a solid portion of gnocchi here.

I'd planned to count my bites piece by piece

I mean, how cool would it be to
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I mean, how cool would it be to be able to say I ate 200 pieces of gnocchi in a single meal. After just a few bites, I realized counting my gnocchi was taking away from the enjoyment of eating all this marvelous Italian food and also preventing me from shoveling it in my mouth in heaps, so I abandoned the counting plan. And yes, the gnocchi was delicious: Soft, fluffy and perfectly chewy and coated in sauce, I believed I really could eat this restaurant's entire stock of gnocchi.

Reset

After completing a round of gnocchi, the waitstaff
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

After completing a round of gnocchi, the waitstaff replaces your plate with a clean one, like at a fancy buffet. Still feeling hungry, this blank slate encouraged me to trick my brain into thinking I was starting dinner again. It was still light out!

Round 2

After a long internal debate with my wine-loving
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

After a long internal debate with my wine-loving self, I decided that I would lay off the grape juice during this meal. While, yes, there was the possibility to really enjoy drunk eating all this gnocchi, I didn't want to fill up on liquids when I could be indulging in so many carbs. Upon realizing I wasn't drinking, I'm pretty sure the waitstaff was ready to see me go, and therefore stacked my second plate a bit higher, just to fill me up.

Two plates of gnocchi is actually a lot of food

I'd been told that the record amount of
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I'd been told that the record amount of gnocchi eaten was eight plates, followed by a record four plates. Four plates seemed attainable, if I wanted to torture myself, but after cleaning my second plate, I wondered what sort of super-stomached human was able to eat four times this much gnocchi. Perhaps they snuck in some take-home containers: forbidden, but clever. After I left, I asked if Tutti Matti could put me in contact with their former gnocchi champions so I could pick up some tips. Unfortunately, they could not.

Third round

Had this been any other night at an
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Had this been any other night at an Italian restaurant, I would have been able to leave at this point, satisfied and full and ready to cozy up at home and catch up on the TV shows I'd missed over the weekend. However, this was Gnocchi Monday and I was not going to give up. This third round was equally as delicious, if not a bit pained to try and finish.

K bye, I can't

I had a friend meet me at the
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I had a friend meet me at the restaurant to cheer me on, but no amount of enthusiasm was going to expand my stomach. Ninety-nine percent of three plates of gnocchi down, and I was done.

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