The Coral Gables Fire Department team

Annual ‘Rib Ticklers Ball’ barbecue draws a crowd

Coral Gables Fire Department team members hold one of their first place trophies.Pictured (l-r) are Chris Garcia, assistant chef; Fred Bobson, event organizer, and Joe Fantigrassi, head chef.

The Town of Cutler Bay’s second annual “Rib Ticklers Ball” barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 19, was a success, according to Parks and Recreation director Alan Ricke.

“Everybody had a good time,” Ricke said. “The weather held out. We did have a little bit of rain in the morning but it didn’t keep anybody from coming out. We’re looking forward to it next year already. There were about 500 or 600 attending.”

The event took place at Cutler Ridge Park and began at 2 p.m., concluding at 7 p.m. Unlike the “Chili Day in Cutler Bay” competition in January, there weren’t as many free samples for guests due to the larger portions involved and the expense.

“But there were people selling food throughout the day and there were some competitors who were able to give out some samples,” Ricke said. “Mainly they had to cook enough for the six judges and for themselves and their families.”

The categories in the cooking competition were brisket, chicken, pulled pork and ribs. The Coral Gables Fire Department team took first place in the Chicken, Pulled Pork and Brisket categories and also was declared Grand Champion. T& WSubs and BBQ took second place in each of those categories, and won in the Pork Ribs category. Big Poppa’s BBQ finished in second place for ribs.

Joe Fantigrassi of the Coral Gables Fire Department team could not have been happier with the nearly clean sweep of the first place prizes. It was their second time in the annual competition.

“I’m just super excited,” Fantigrassi said.

“It was a great event. It was well run and a great time for everybody that showed up. I look forward to doing it each year. It’s a fun event and we have a lot of competitive spirit between some of the guys. They told me next year they’re going to come back and they’ll keep working hard. It’s fun with everybody competing. We share stories and secrets.”

Tom Wills of the T& WSubs and BBQ team also was pleased overall but hoped to do better.

“We were very happy that we won ribs,” Wills said. “I wish that I would have won for chicken because I put a lot of effort into my chicken, but we won second place in everything else. We were happy with the turnout. The fire department did really well out there. That was the main competition for us. We’re happy just to hang with those guys who compete all the time.

Also a vendor at the day’s event as well as a competitor in the cook-off, Wills said it was exhausting work.

“When we do these competitions a lot of effort goes into it,” Wills said. “We were definitely tired at the end of the day. We had three people working, total, and we sold about 60 racks of ribs.”

Part of the Cutler Bay community, his restaurant, T& WSubs and BBQ, is located at 18683 S. Dixie Hwy. He said they also have been working hard to add to their business.

“We just opened up our craft beer bar,” Wills said. “We have over a hundred different craft beers from around the world.”

Both Wills and Fantigrassi likely will be joining many of the other competitors for next year’s event.

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