Keeping pizza in Old Town local

Keeping pizza in Old Town local
From left to right: Ian McGrath, Rob Csonka and Gregg Linzey. (Photo/Kassidy McDonald)

By Kassidy McDonald

Handover by the Slice, a new pizza joint in Old Town, had its soft opening during the first week of September and is now fully open for business. The pizza shop is providing something that the neighborhood in Old Town has lacked for years: a late night slice of traditional pizza.

At its King Street location, there was a line of four people after lunch time on Tuesday at about 3 p.m. Customers sat at the long bar that offers face to face service while enjoying their individual slices of pizza. Director of Operations Rob Csonka served slices to customers and welcomed everyone who entered the shop with a smile. Gregg Linzey, a member of Handover by the Slice’s owner group, gave customers utensils and napkins and asked each person if they enjoyed their meal.

Customers appeared happy with the food, service and local vibe of the restaurant.

Ian McGrath, Linzey and Teddy Kim make up the group of Alexandrians who have successfully turned this space into a pizza lover’s dream. The location at 728 King St. was once the home of a hand roll sushi destination called Handover. After realizing that sushi wasn’t ideal for this location, they begin to brainstorm new ideas for the space. The restaurant group – consisting of owners Kim, Linzey and McGrath – knew that Old Town was lacking something in the neighborhood. They thought of a better idea to use the space they already owned on King Street, which is where the idea for Handover by the Slice was born.

Handover by the Slice is located on King Street. (Photo/Kassidy McDonald)

McGrath and Kim have extensive backgrounds in real estate, while Csonka and Linzey have more experience in the culinary and organizational side of running a restaurant. They originally found the location through Kim’s mother’s high school classmate from T.C. Williams High School, now called Alexandria City High School. McGrath said this just goes to show how local this business is, as well as the restaurant group they have created.

The group knew they wanted to keep the spirit and charm alive with their new restaurant concept. They noticed that there was no other place in town that offered by the slice pizza, or was open late at night. McGrath said the location makes it an ideal spot for people who come from nearby bars like Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub, which is located just across the street. The large bar scene in Old Town has been a contributor to the success of the business so far.

“We have seen a ton of action late at night,” McGrath explained. The corner location is special, and makes for easy access for anyone who wants a quick bite to eat. That doesn’t mean that it is considered a fast-food joint, as all of the ingredients used to create the pizza are fresh and the sauce and dough are made in-house.

Linzey said that pizza, particularly good pizza, can “incite some sort of memory for people.” He explained how we get to know these local businesses as parts of our lives, and he’s hoping that Handover by the Slice will give customers the nostalgic feeling through the flavors of its food and its special location.

Linzey also said the new business is also a “savior for a lot of industry staff,” since many people who work at restaurants and bars in Old Town that close late look for places to eat after work and always come up short. He believes the shop will continue to build an industry following, with more and more people utilizing their later hours of operation, which are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The shop serves pizza by the slice, beer, wine and appetizers. (Photo/Kassidy McDonald)

The menu items are classic and traditional. The beauty of Handover by the Slice is that they aren’t trying to do anything special with their pizza, which is ironically what ends up making it special. The menu offers everything from slices to whole pies, white pizza, traditional cheese, veggie, pepperoni, buffalo, barbeque and a slice of the day. Appetizers include classics like mozzarella sticks, poppers, garlic knots, onion rings and french fries. Handover by the Slice also offers an extensive list of beer and wine for customers dining in.

Linzey said he’s recently seen a lot of out of state developers come into Old Town and try to “modernize” the area. The greatest way he says his restaurant group can have an impact on this community is to keep it local. All the group members and their families live in Alexandria within a couple miles of one another. With this new business, they’re hoping to accomplish just that.

“How can we have that impact and how can we create those things that are a staple in the community?” Linzey said.

Csonka also said that throughout the entire staff spanning across all of the group’s businesses, which includes Linzey’s The Chewish Deli, almost 80% of workers are living in Alexandria. This adds to the sense of community and keeps that local feel alive, they all explained. It can be hard to see chain stores pop up in a once very local and small business oriented neighborhood, so creating this pizza shop was something they believe is doing service to the community they all love.

As for the future of Handover by the Slice, they are taking their recent opening in phases. As of now, there is no delivery option, but that’s definitely something Csonka, McGrath and Linzey said they could see in the future for their restaurant.

“The greatest way to have an impact on our local community is by keeping it local…” said Linzey. “[We’re hoping] this will be a community place and a neighborhood staple.”