It’s about 4 o’clock on a Friday, and things are ramping up at Hilltop’s Westside Slice. It’s hot outside, and even hotter in the kitchen, as temps inside regularly reach into the triple digits with the pizza oven on all day. The locale is unassuming but quaint.
Diners can find Westside Slice – now in its eighth month of operation – tucked into a corner of a shopping center near the intersection of Demorest and Briggs. If you haven’t been paying attention, you might not have heard of this pizzeria, but I have a feeling you soon might, as it just might be the best new pizza spot on the Westside of town, if not Columbus as a whole.
In more ways than one, something is bubbling at Westside Slice. On one hand, the cheese is always hot, gooey and melty as one might expect with a quality pizza. In other ways, this sentiment runs deeper. Westside Slice has become a hot topic among pizza fans as conversions on Facebook’s “Pizza Aficionados of Columbus” page suggests. Westside Slice is a burgeoning operation as all signs suggest; and I want to know why.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
I head to Westside Slice one afternoon to chat with Danny Jones, the proprietor of this fine institution. Throughout our conversation, what strikes me the most about Danny is his demeanor. As he darts from task to task, he constantly has a smile on his face, cracking a joke here and there when needed. Take it from me, this is an impressive feat: I’ve worked in enough hot kitchens in my lifetime to know how taxing working in such an environment can be. It rubs off on people too, as staff and customers alike – and even myself – start to crack a smile when he enters the room.
“First I started trying to make the recipe for the sauce” he told me after I inquired about the process of opening Westside Slice. “It’s nothing like anything you’re going to have around here.” After going through batches and batches of sauces using different recipes, he said he finally found the perfect formula: “I let the family have another test run and they said ‘this is it’… From that point on, I’ve been using the same ingredients.”
I approach his sauce claims with a degree of skepticism, but a quick sample of Danny Jones’ secret recipe quickly dispels any concerns. Westside Slice’s is a thicker sauce with a deep, rich tomato flavor, perfect for the style of pizza they offer.
Westside Slice offers their own take on classic, Columbus-style pizza. The crust is thin, and yet surprisingly airy for a Columbus-style slice. And square cut of course. The pizza is certainly one part of the equation here, but on the other side of the coin, family and community also play a role in Westside Slice’s success.
Westside Slice is through and through a family and community oriented operation. In less than an hour at the store, I met Danny’s mother, father and wife (also a co-owner), all of whom hop in to offer their assistance when needed. Danny’s nephew and a few other students from Franklin Heights High School down the street pitch in part-time, and it’s not for nothing either, as the orders start rolling in immediately after the 4 PM opening.
He doesn’t say it outright, but even a brief conversation with Danny will reveal that this man has dreams. The peculiar thing about it however, especially for a business owner, is that he never mentions getting rich, not even once. No, every fantasy of the future Danny shares with me revolves around giving back to the community that has been responsible for Westside Slice’s success so far.
“I want people’s families to come in for Ohio State games, Cincinnati games, you know? I want this to be a staple of the community so that people can come in here and just relax. We’re getting benches here so the guys can come out here after the football games and just chill. We’re here about the community, man.”
In the long term, Danny has aspirations to sell his pizza in a more formal sit-down environment; yet, despite the fortune that expanding into a regional chain might bring, Danny’s desire to do so seems to be borne out of – once again – a desire to serve his community. “I enjoy every bit and part of it, because I want to give back to the neighborhood just as they did when I was younger, you know what I mean?” he explained.
I grab a pizza for the road and hang out in the lobby playing Galaga for a few moments while Danny prepares my masterpiece. I briefly chat with a customer, Theresa, about what she enjoys the most about Westside Slice. While the crust and sauce make it one of Theresa’s favorite slices in Columbus, the true attraction of Westside Slice is the people. “The people here, I love them. They are so nice, so friendly,” she said.
Moments later, Danny emerges from the kitchen with my pizza in hand. I grab a corner slice before I hit the road and I’m glad I did, because let me tell you – this pizza is something special. Theresa wasn’t joking around about the crust. It occupies a “best-of-both-worlds” position, taking the crunch of thin crust and chewiness of a wood-fired pizza and amalgamating them into something wonderful. I thank Danny and company for their time and then dart off to my car to hide my depravity before gorging myself on a few more slices. I can’t help it – it’s really good pizza. I help myself to another slice, and with melted cheese dangling from my maw, I make eye contact with Danny as he strolls through the parking lot. He wears a cheeky grin on his face, as if to say “I told you so.” This is a man who takes pride in his pizza, as he should.
Want to read more? Check out our print publications, (614) Magazine and Stock & Barrel. Learn where you can find free copies of our newest issues here!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY