ST. PETERSBURG — The Inferno Soup at Nitally's restaurant is so searingly spicy that co-owner Ally Valdez encourages customers not to eat it.
Seriously. This soup is so hot that it comes with its own release form.
But on Monday, a Food Network camera crew showed up at the restaurant to film customers as they tried their best to slurp down cups of liquid fire.
Like any good entrepreneur, Valdez likes the publicity, but he hopes the show doesn't make anyone take his soup lightly.
"A lot of people don't know what peppers they're up against," said Valdez, who owns Nitally's with his wife, Nit Jintaseranee.
The crew filmed at Nitally's Thai-Mex Cuisine at 2462 Central Ave. for an upcoming episode of Heat Seekers, a show that tries to discover "the most deliciously spicy food across the country — and to figure out why these dishes are so fun to eat," according to foodnetwork.com.
But co-host and chef Roger Mooking wasn't using the word "fun" when he considered Nitally's Inferno Soup.
"This one looks a little frightening," he said.
Although normally closed on Mondays, the restaurant was filled with invited guests and notables such as Mayor Bill Foster, who said he managed to get down seven or eight spoonsful.
"It's a wonderful flavor," he said. "But it is hot."
With cameras focused on her every spoonful, Yimin Chen gave up partway through a small cup. It was the first time she had ever tried the soup — and she works at Nitally's as a server.
Valdez said he would like the restaurant to be known mostly for good food. With a menu that fuses Thai and Mexican cuisine, it offers plenty of dishes to sample, such as green curry burritos, pad thai chorizo and spicy basil beef tacos.
But then there's the Inferno Soup, a Thai chicken soup with long, thin egg noodles, various veggies and a big helping of infernally hot peppers.
The soup uses ghost peppers, considered the hottest on the planet, as well as the spice of a dozen other types.
Nitally's has an Inferno Soup challenge: Anyone who can eat a 48-ounce cauldron of the stuff within half an hour gets $1,000.
But before anyone can start, he or she has to sign that release form. The restaurant's website warns, "THIS SOUP IS NOT A JOKE" and says one must be sober and of sound mind before picking up a spoon.
Anyone who takes the challenge but fails to finish within the 30 minutes has to pay the price of the soup: $49.99.
Note to the adventurous: No one has ever earned the thousand bucks.
At the end of the day, Mooking and co-host Aarón Sanchez tried the soup themselves — and didn't come anywhere close to consuming 48 ounces, Valdez said.
The show will air next year.