Next time you’re in the mood for pizza in the Birmingham area, the national industry publication Pizza Today has a recommendation – Slice Pizza & Brew.
Owned by brothers with deep restaurant roots in Birmingham, Slice has been lauded as Pizza Company of the Year in the Southeast region in the industry publication’s inaugural Pizza Industry Excellence (PIE) awards. Slice also won a national PIE award for Most Interesting Menu.
When they opened the original Slice in 2011, brothers Jason, Chris, and Jeff Bajalieh were among a national movement of pizzaolo pioneers seeking to elevate and expand the humble but popular pie.
“We take a lot of pride in our food,” Jeff once told me. “We take an everyday item that appeals to the masses and we make it upscale. We believe in supporting local. Eat local. Drink local. Be local.”
In addition to the original in Birmingham’s Lakeview district, Slice now has locations in Vestavia Hills, Birmingham’s Crestline neighborhood, and Montevallo. A fifth location should open this year in Homewood’s Edgewood community.
The brothers practically grew up in restaurants, including eateries run by their parents, Palestinian immigrants Saleh – known to everyone as Sol – and Nadia Bajalieh.
Sol’s Sandwich Shop & Deli, which opened in 1968, was particularly popular with workers in downtown Birmingham until a lost lease forced it to close in 1994. The Bajalieh brothers revived Sol’s in 2008. (It shuttered in 2020 amid the pandemic closings.)
Looking to expand the family business, the brothers noticed the trend around town of craft breweries opening and chefs starting restaurants that bring farm-to-table gourmet elements to simple foods like burgers, sandwiches, and tacos.
Jeff had once been a franchisee at two Domino’s Pizza locations in Birmingham, and Jason helped run them, so the Bajalieh brothers decided to apply those principles to pizza. The timing was right; Birmingham’s first craft brewery, Good People, started in 2008 and newcomers were on the way when Slice baked its first pie.
What Slice cannot source locally – it routinely utilizes more than a dozen Alabama farmers and food producers – it turns to premium makers like Molinari pepperoni, which forms a distinctive cup when cooked.
Pizza Today started its PIE awards to promote pizzerias that go beyond the basic formula of dough, red sauce, cheese, and the same old toppings. The initial awards included nearly two dozen categories, including five regional companies of the year.
“Congratulations to the winners!” Pizza Today’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeremy White, says in the awards announcement. “Judging in many of the categories was particularly difficult due to the breadth of quality entries. Being nationally recognized for your hard work and dedication to your craft is a feather in your cap.”
It’s little wonder the PIE awards singled out Slice for its menu. Unusual ingredients on its specialty pies include classic Alabama flavors like white sauce, barbecue, greens, black-eyed peas, and Conecuh sausage. The pizzas can be customized, and gluten-free cauliflower crusts are an option.
Here are a few of the pies at Slice Pizza & Brew that earned national praise by its peers:
- The Lakeview: White sauce, braised beef short rib, caramelized onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, asiago, arugula, shaved red onions, and horseradish sauce.
- Soul Pie: White sauce, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, Conecuh sausage, grilled red onion, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
- Bajalieh Special: House red sauce, bacon, grilled red onions, and banana pepper rings.
- Wing and a Prayer: Buffalo sauce, braised chicken, bacon, green and red onions, tomatoes, parmesan, blue cheese crumbles, and a drizzle of ranch dressing.
- BBQ: Either braised chicken or smoked brisket with green onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, and both red and white barbecue sauces.