By Naeisha Rose
Participants in the third annual 5 Boro Pizza Challenge will compete against each other as they race across the five boroughs using mass transit to help raise money for an advocacy group by eating pizza.
While the racers in the Sept. 22 event won’t learn the location of the pizzeria they will have to get to either by foot, bus, bike, train or ferry — taxis, cars or ride share cars are not allowed — until they reach the iconic Red Cube art installation in Manhattan, past locations in Queens included Polito’s Pizza in Astoria at 38-12 Broadway, and sLICe in Long Island City at 48-11 Vernon Blvd.
The proceeds of the challenge will go to Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes the use of public transit, bicycling and walking for less congested roads and cleaner air throughout the city, according to its spokesman Joe Cutrufo.
The five-borough crusade was the brainchild of Cutrufo, a Boston transplant and pizza enthusiast who came to New York in 2012 and now resides in Washington Heights.
The event started as just a fun way from him and a friend to check out the Big Apple.
“I just wanted to have a good excuse to explore the city, and I’ve always loved pizza, and given that New York has not only has the most pizza, but also the best pizza in the country, I wanted to see if I could try a slice in each borough all in one day,” said Cutrufo. “So I recruited a friend who is always up for anything and we went around one day and had a slice and a beer in each of the five boroughs.”
It has since grown to become an annual tradition for Cutrufo, along with his friend Mike DeGagne, a fellow graduate of Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.
“In 2016, I decided to run the New York City marathon for Transportation Alternatives’ charity team and I had to raise $3,000,” said Cutrufo who works for the organization. “Before turning to friends and family for donations, I thought maybe I can monetize this pizza challenge that I have been doing with friends and open it up to the public and make it a fund-raiser.”
Cutrufo has a simple way of selecting the pizzerias that are a part of the challenge.
“Transit access is important, because participants aren’t allowed to use cars of any kind… and quality,” said Cutrufo. “Pizzerias that are well-liked and have neighborhood appeal,” are also deciding factors, he added.
Each participant also has to provide evidence upon reaching each designated pizzeria by using the #5boropizzachallenge and documenting their experience on Instagram.
Anyone who wants to compete can visit 5boro
“It’s a celebration of the city’s multi-modal transportation network,” said Cutrufo.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose