Our Experience Running The 2019 NYC 5 Boro Pizza Challenge

pizza challengeOn Saturday, September 28, Kim, Lucas and I headed to The Red Cube in Lower Manhattan for the start of the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge.

This wasn’t our first time competing in the challenge. Back in 2017, Kim, Theo and I completed the race and had a great time. (Find out about our experience here.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the challenge, here’s a description of what goes down.

In the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge, competitors must visit and eat a slice at one pizzeria in each borough of NYC. The pizzerias are revealed at the start of the challenge and you can only travel to them using mass transit, bikes, scooters, walking and running etc…

No cars are allowed, that means no taxis, Ubers, Lyfts or rides from your friends. Before the race kicked off, I was really curious to find out which pizzerias would be included for 2019. It turns out that I randomly guessed the Manhattan shop while thinking of potential places that might be on the list.

When I looked inside to see the five pizzerias included in the race, it turned out that I had already had pizza from all of them. While all of the shops included have awesome pizza, this was a bit of a bummer since I had hoped to try out some new places.

Regardless, Kim, Lucas and I were excited to get going and start eating some pizza!

We (quickly) walked over to the ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan (Lucas traveled by scooter) and headed to our first shop in Staten Island.

Once the ferry arrived, Kim and I rented Lime e-bikes. We couldn’t bike very fast since we had to wait for Lucas on his scooter but he did a great job. Riding the Lime e-bike was a ton of fun but a bit on the pricier side to rent, regardless Kim and I found it well worth it.

Borough 1: Staten Island- Paulie’s PizzeriaIn the 2017 5 Boro Pizza Challenge, Paulie’s Pizzeria was also included. Considering we loved their pizza, this wasn’t a bad thing.Rather than wait for a regular slice, we ordered the last two Sicilians which were ready.

The slice was delicious with a really flavorful sauce. The only issue was that it was thick and took a while to eat. We may’ve saved time by waiting an extra 2 minutes for a regular slice.

As we ate our slices outside, the line outside Paulie’s ending up going around the corner. Looks like we made it there at just the right time!We then rode our Lime bikes (with Lucas trailing on  his scooter) back to the ferry terminal. We got stuck waiting around 20 minutes for the next one to arrive.While on the ferry we totally enjoyed these views…

Once back in the city, we hopped on a train to Brooklyn for stop number 2.

Borough 2: Brooklyn- Norm’s PizzaNorm’s Pizza opened last month. I visited one time and really enjoyed their pizza. This was Kim’s first visit to the shop and she was really impressed.Kim ordered a white slice which she really enjoyed. I went with a slice I hadn’t yet tried, the Vodka. The sauce was creamy and delicious and there were hints of heat from time to time. I really loved this slice and will definitely order it again.

Our initial plan was to go from Brooklyn to the Manhattan shop. We got on the subway and at the last second we decided to switch gears and head to Queens instead.

Borough 3: Queens- Rizzo’s Fine PizzaRizzo’s has been around for a long time. We love their thin saucy Sicilians but none were available. Wanting to save time we ordered a couple of regular slices.We’ve had their regular slice before but this time it felt a bit heavier when it came to the crust and overload of the sauce. Regardless, I still enjoyed this slice, Kim and Lucas not so much.

Our BIG mistake:

While eating our slices from Rizzo’s, we walked to a bus stop a few blocks away to catch a bus to Harlem before then catching Metro North to the Bronx.

Stepping inside the Metro North station at 125th Street Harlem felt like stepping back in time. We paid for our tickets (only $4.50 each on weekends and $1 for Lucas) and the teller told us to get on the 4:15 train. We were supposed to go one stop to Fordham.

As we waited on the platform another 5 Boro competitor arrived. We started chatting and then got on the train when it arrived at 4:12. We figured the train got to the station a few minutes early and would then depart by 4:15. Boy were we wrong!!!
While I chatted with our new race buddy Nick, Kim realized that the train went right past the Fordham stop. We were all confused…

When the conductor came by to stamp tickets he explained that we got on the wrong train- this one was going direct to Stamford, around 45 minutes away!

We were not happy but all we could do was laugh. Other passengers on the train started chatting with us and it ended up being a ridiculous but funny situation. When we arrived in Stamford, we had to wait around 20 minutes for the train back towards the Bronx to arrive.

In the end, we didn’t have to pay for return tickets after explaining what happened. This 3 minute earlier train cost us close to two hours during the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge!
When we finally made it to the Fordham stop, we were so happy that we had to take a photo. Then we walked around 5-10 minutes to pizzeria number 4. As we walked to the shop, we passed lots of other race participants.

Borough 4: Bronx- Pugsley Pizza
I had been to Pugsley Pizza around 7 years back while on Scott’s Pizza Tours.

I remembered liking the pizza at Pugsley’s so I didn’t mind giving it another try.When we got to Pugsley’s it was very busy. I’d estimate that we waited at least 10 minutes to order our slices. The staff was awesome and excited to see us visiting due to the 5 Boro.

After a few photos outside, we walked with our slices back to Metro North. Pugsley Pizza makes an awesome classic NY style slice. It was probably Lucas and my favorite of the day.

Borough 5: Manhattan- Sofia Pizza ShoppeAfter getting off Metro North we had a solid 10-15 minute walk to our final stop, Sofia Pizza Shoppe.

I’d been wanting to visit Sofia for years and actually mentioned to Kim that I hoped they were included in the 5 Boro this year! (I had tried Sofia at Slice Out Hunger a couple of years back.)Lots of the slices at Sofia looked good but I decided to go with a regular slice, Kim ordered a white.

Both slices were delicious! Kim and I feel that we definitely need to head back here one of these days.

Onto the finish line!From Sofia, we had to make the walk back to the train and head back downtown to Clinton Hall.

I don’t recall exactly what time we made it to the finish, but I’d say it was at around 8:30 PM! To our surprise, we weren’t even the last ones to get to Clinton Hall. If not for our huge mistake with that 4:12 train, we would’ve probably places in the top third!

Better luck next year!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge was a ton of fun!

We enjoyed running around, taking buses, trains, ferry’s and e-bikes around NYC all in the name of pizza! Yes, we made a big mistake, but we made the best of it and gained a fourth member to our team!

We’re looking forward to next year’s 5 Boro Pizza Challenge. If you love pizza, you should definitely consider entering!

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