Rizzo's 'Cook-Off for Cancer' benefits kids

Teammates join Cubs first baseman for fundraiser

Rizzo's 'Cook-Off for Cancer' benefits kids

CHICAGO -- There was handmade cavatelli and Roman-style pork paninis, a tuna tostada with chile-rubbed albacore and a lobster burrito. And chef David Burns was making a sandwich he called "The Rizzo Bomb" that featured Laurie Rizzo's meatballs and marinara.

All the items were made in easy-to-eat sizes and were part of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation's fourth annual "Cook-Off for Cancer." Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Cubs' first baseman's foundation, which raises money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families battling the disease. Thursday's event raised more than $630,000.

Rizzo, 26, told his teammates to come hungry.

"I made sure [to tell them]," he said. "Most of the guys know -- they're all excited."

The festive mood was helped by the Cubs' 7-2 victory over the Dodgers earlier Thursday at Wrigley Field.

"Even if we lost, it's good to come to these events," Rizzo said. "What we raise money for is far bigger than anything we do in baseball."

A few kids who are battling cancer and who have met Rizzo during his visits to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago also were at the Cook-Off. Rizzo's foundation also hosts a "Laugh-Off for Cancer" event in January and a "Walk-Off for Cancer" 5-kilometer walk in his hometown of Parkland, Fla.

"I probably like this one because I like all the food," Rizzo said.

There were plenty of options. Cubs players stepped in to serve the food, and the winning item would be determined by tips received. Last year Piccolo Sogno restaurant and chef Tony Priolo won the event. This year Priolo was featuring the Roman-style pork panini.

Burns took advantage of Rizzo's mother Laurie's cooking talents and borrowed her recipe for meatballs and marinara sauce to create the "Rizzo Bomb" sandwich on Italian bread.

Rizzo was happy for the support not only of the fans but from his teammates.

"There's so much going on during the year," Rizzo said. "To have the guys come here and show their support for me and my foundation and for pediatric cancer is great. I think everyone on the team can relate somehow to pediatric cancer. It's a really good cause and a really good time."

Rizzo's foundation has raised $1 million in its three years of existence, and the goal this year is to raise $1 million more. When Rizzo was a Red Sox Minor Leaguer and first diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, he was introduced to another cancer survivor, pitcher Jon Lester. Now, they're teammates.

"[Lester] has no idea how much he helped me, but his little bit encouraged me to do all this," Rizzo said.

One food item Rizzo was going to make sure to taste test were a version of "Rizzo treats" made from his "RizzOs" cereal.

"I was excited about that," he said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.