5 Boro Pizza
Challenge slices into
the city’s 2020 blues
BY ALEX MITCHELL
Not even a pandemic could stop New
York’s fi fth-annual ‘5 Boro Pizza Challenge‘
– an amazing race held Saturday
which demonstrates how effi cient the
city’s public transit system can be in the
most tasteful of ways.
Although some ingredients of the challenge
had to be virtualized for the 2020
running, its objective remained clear as
day: travel to and eat (at least) one slice in
each of the fi ve boroughs, using only public
transit, walking, or cycling throughout
The fi ve designated pizzerias, which
were disclosed as the urban odyssey got
underway at 11 a.m. Saturday morning,
spanned racers from Sam’s Pizza in
the Bronx’s Riverdale neighborhood to
L’Industrie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,
along with Pier 76 on the Staten Island
waterfront in Saint George, sLICe in Astoria,
Queens, and NY Pizza Suprema,
next to Madison Square Square Garden
The ability to effi ciently navigate New
York’s subways, waterways, and streets is
more so the true challenge on the day as
opposed to one’s swiftness with a slice – although
being able to chow down quickly
does come in handy.
This reporter’s plan of attack was a
north-to-south approach, starting in the
Bronx to Manhattan, then ferrying over
to Staten Island before backtracking to
Brooklyn and later crossing the proverbial
fi nish line in Queens.
Sam’s Pizza, Bronx 11:30 a.m.
Nothing starts your weekend like
morning pizza in the Bronx.
This walk-up stand at 232 W. 231st St.
embodies all the characteristics of a classic
NYC slice, achieving an ideal, middle
ground ratio of cheese-to-sauce as well as
doughiness-to-crispiness while still maintaining
a unique and fl avorful accent.
Then it was off to Midtown. The only
question was how to get there.
The easy answer would be taking a
nearby local 1 train at 231st Street to Penn
Station, however, that 22 stop trip would
eat away at valuable time that could not be
spared on such a rigorous day.
An 11:43 a.m. train out of nearby Marble
Hill Metro-North station, a fi ve-stop
ride into Grand Central Terminal simply
had to be the most optimal solution — if
track work hadn’t delayed trains for up to
30 minutes that weekend.
Despite the holdup, I was still in Midtown
by 12:30 p.m. and opted to walk from
Grand Central to NY Pizza Suprema on
31st Street and Eighth Avenue rather than
gambling again on the reliability of the
subway system, especially with a transfer
was needed – and it worked.
NY Pizza Suprema, Manhattan
Different from Sam’s, this slice emphasized
sauce along with a sharper, more
accentuated cheese with a Romano fl avor
and a nice crispy crust that stuck out
above all else. The shop at 413 Eighth Ave.
BRONX TIMES REPORTER,36 OCT. 30-NOV. 5, 2020 BTR
also offered some great Italian tunes, such
as “Volare” by Dean Martin, that was a
welcome back to indoor dining, even if it
was only for a few minutes.
Next, there was a ferry to be caught en
route to Staten Island from Manhattan’s
As the free, Staten Island Ferry runs
half-hourly on weekends, catching the 2
p.m. to Saint George was a make-or-break
moment on the culinary adventure.
I quickly dashed to Herald Square
to pick up a southbound R or W train to
Whitehall Street only to wait eight crucial
minutes for the next available train.
That R train got me downtown at
1:56 p.m. and onboard the ferry just as
doors were being closed. Never have I
believed more that one can will the impossible
while commuting throughout
New York City.
The next stop was only a short walk
from the SI Ferry Terminal in Saint
George and certainly one of the day’s
most pleasant experiences.
Pier 76, Staten Island 2:45 p.m.
This pizza summated the argument
that it is sinful to exclude Staten
Island from the city’s top-ranking
slices and pies.
Saucey with a surplus of fresh cheese
and a crispy, thin-crust, recently reopened
Pier 76 of 76 Bay Street has the
kind of pizza that perks up the taste buds
and one’s mood. It’s sweet, tomato and
mozzarella fl avor along with crunchy
texture certainly give non-islanders
a reason to hop on a boat for their next
While there, two other competitors,
Megan Schmidt and Bo Raynolds of Inwood
were also scarfi ng down their third
slices of the race.
They opted to cycle throughout
the journey while decked in 5 Boro
Pizza Challenge attire, also starting
in the Bronx and moving downward to
Manhattan and Staten Island.
Another ferry ride brought me back to
Manhattan by 4 p.m., and soon I was off
on the J train from Broad Street toward
Williamsburg. After enjoying a scenic
view over the Williamsburg Bridge on a
J train, it was time to depart on Marcy
Avenue march northbound some blocks
towards 254 S Second St. for slice four.
L’Industrie, Brooklyn 4:50 p.m.
In the interest of time, I took my Margherita
slice on the go since the fi nal leg
of my journey required a good stretch of
walking along with three subway rides
The basil loaded slice had a darkened
and crispy crust with a slimming amount
of cheese that traveled well towards the
Metropolitan Avenue G train station.
Now in the fi nal stretch, it was my
goal to clock-in before sundown – one
which was at the mercy of the New York
City Subway system.
After riding the Queens-bound G
to the end of the line at Court Square, I
had a one-stop transfer on the 7 train to
Queensboro Plaza where I planned on
picking up either an N or W Ditmars Boulevard
bound subway to 30th Avenue in a
‘bing, bang, boom’ style maneuver.
Despite a 15 minute delay for the N
train, I still reached sLICe at 37-08 30th
Avenue before the sun set Saturday.
sLICe, Queens 6:15
The moment we’ve all greatly anticipated
had arrived with the bite of a succulent
Margherita slice in a spacious and
quiet backyard seating area in Queens.
That slice was rich in cheese, sauce,
and the taste of victory that came with
conquering the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge in
under seven hours.
Although that time was just shy of
the contest’s winner, Brian Pinkston
who had clocked in minutes before 2:30
p.m., there was still a lot to feel optimistic
about – especially seeing small businesses
and eateries fi ghting the good
fi ght and being greatly patronized in
combat of COVID-19.
Despite connotations, it is very possible
to fl exibly move throughout New
York City through its public transit system;
competing in the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge
also opens one’s eyes to how effi -
cient their own legs can be as well.
Even while wearing a mask, walking
over seven miles throughout the day in
between pizzerias and transit junction
proved the most expedient manner of
travel on the day and certainly helped to
keep an appetite between slices.
Being out and about during the 5 Boro
Pizza Challenge also served to be a tangible
reminder that New York City is alive,
well, and will recover from this mess of a
year one slice at a time.
A morning slice from Sam’s in Riverdale to
kick off the challenge.
Megan Schmidt and Bo Raynolds of Inwood make their third stop of the challenge on Staten
Island’s Pier 76. Photos by Alex Mitchell