If you're running in this weekend's St. Jude Memphis Marathon or half marathon, congratulations – you're a braver person than I am. You're also, most likely, a person who needs some serious fuel for the race. Here are 13 places to carb load before the big race:
1. Aldo's Pizza Pies (100 S. Main St.)
If you need carbs, but don't want pasta, Aldo's pizzas will do just as well. My favorite is The Other Side (pictured above, with grilled chicken, tomatoes and spinach), but if you're into something meatier, try the T.Rex, which comes with sausage, pepperoni and meatballs.
2. Bari (22 S. Cooper)
Make reservations at Bari if you'd like to carb load in style. Their hyper-regional take on Italian food is amazing, and since it comes in small plates, you can order a few different dishes without spending an insane amount of money. (If you like crab and sort of spicy things, I recommend the orzo con pomodoro.)
3. Ciao Bella (565 Erin Drive)
4. Coletta's (1063 S. Parkway E.)
For a dining experience that's both heavy on the carbs and very, very Memphis, go to Coletta's on S. Parkway (the one on Appling just isn't the same) and order the barbecue pizza. It's like a regular pizza, completely covered in pulled pork, served in a restaurant that's remained almost completely unchanged since the 1930s.
5. Cortona Contemporary Italian (948 S. Cooper) (Ed. Note 12/3/2013: closed)
6. Gibson's Donuts (760 Mt. Moriah)
Whether you're looking for a carb heavy breakfast or dessert or forget to do your carbloading the night before, Gibson's has you covered. They're open 24 hours, and if you're serious / seriously broke, all of the donuts are half price between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
7. Incredible Pizza (1245 N. Germantown Pkwy #104)
Incredible Pizza is a perfect place for your pre-marathon meal if: a) you need an all-you-can eat situation, b) you have kids with you, or c) you really want to play arcade games after you eat. Also, they're the only place in town with mac'n'cheese pizza (which is exactly what it sounds like – pizza, topped with mac'n'cheese).
8. Memphis Pizza Cafe (Various locations, but the closest to downtown is at 2087 Madison Ave.)
Memphis Pizza Cafe has pizza, sure, but they've also got really good calzones. Plus, you can order online for pick up at all locations, and they're very acommodating to groups and families.
9. Lucchesi's (540 S. Mendenhall)
For those who prefer to do their pre-marathon eating in the privacy of their own homes, Lucchesi's has a huge selection of homemade frozen raviolis and pastas (including a barbecue ravioli). They've also got loaves of fresh bread, slices of cake and a huge cheese case.
10. Papa Pia's (83 Union Ave.) (Ed. Note 12/3/2013: closed)
11. Pete and Sam's (3886 Park Ave.)
Pete and Sam's gets crowded on the weekends, but it's possibly the most efficient place in Memphis to carb load. Order something from the Italian Dinners section on the menu and you'll get a huge, noodle-based entree with your choice of two sides: ravioli, spaghetti, pizza, Italian Spinach or a baked potato.
12. Spaghetti Warehouse (40 Huling Ave.)
Yes, the Spaghetti Warehouse is a chain, but it gets the carb-loading job done: it's a whole warehouse, full of pasta. If you're traveling with a big group, Spaghetti Warehouse is a good option, as they've got tons of space, and they take group reservations.
13. Vanelli's Deli (7873 Farmington Blvd.)
Eat lunch at Vanelli's Deli the day before the marathon, and you'll be good to go. Their Italian sandwiches are incredible, and come in whole or half sizes, so you can save some for later. Call ahead and see if they've got any of their homemade ravioli – it's some of the best in town.