There’s a lot going on with Al’s Pizza in Atlantic Beach. Al’s is currently changing the brand for its AB location and moving about a block away. It’s also changing the name from Al’s Pizza to Al’s Craft Pizza.
There’s not a set date for when the newly revamped restaurant will open, but it should be pretty soon. So, what exactly is “craft pizza?” Al Mansur, owner of Al’s Pizza, said it’s all about quality.
“Everything is being made in house with the best ingredients,” Mansur said. “Everything is going to be just right.”
Joshua Agan, executive chef of Al’s Craft Pizza echoed similar thoughts. “There’s a great focus on the ingredients we’re using and the techniques we’re using as well,” Agan said. “Starting off with the best possible pizza flour we can get coming from Italy, using top quality tomatoes imported from Italy as well and also sourcing out the finest local ingredients we could find for the toppings on our pizza.”
Almost everything about Al’s Craft Pizza will be different from Al’s Pizza. From the décor to the menu. Agan said the only menu item they’re bringing over from Al’s Pizza is the caesar salad. Everything else will be completely different.
The restaurant focuses a lot on quality, and, of course, with that comes slightly higher prices. While there definitely won’t be a dollar beer and pizza night, Mansur and Agan are confident the customers will appreciate the quality in the ingredients.
All the other Al’s Pizza locations will remain Al’s Pizza as Al’s Craft Pizza is somewhat of a guinea pig to see how customers will react. But Mansur is confident the brand change won’t affect the restaurant negatively.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” Mansur said. “I’m more worried about when people see the name ‘Al’ on the sign, they come in here thinking they’re going to get the old menu. I don’t want to disappoint them, but we did leave on the menu a classic Margherita pizza, which everybody loves, and we do have a pepperoni pizza [still].”
As of now, Mansur doesn’t plan on changing any other locations to Al’s Craft Pizza, but if the restaurant is a success, he said he’d love to open more locations.
“We’ll see how this one does,” Mansur said. “If it works well, I think there’s room to do this in other neighborhoods, like San Marco, Riverside, even though there’s an Al’s Pizza there. I would go to Avondale. This concept would work well in Avondale.”
One big question to this change: Why do it at all?
Agan said there are too many pizza places similar to Al’s Pizza, so they wanted to differentiate themselves.
“Al kind of pioneered the New York pizza business in Jacksonville 20-plus years ago,” Agan said. “In the following years and especially in the last 10 years or so, there’s been a lot of copycat pizzerias. There’s a lot of places doing similar things now, so there’s definitely a need to reinvent yourself and stand out from the rest of the pack.”
With Al’s Craft Pizza Co., they aim to do just that. You can check out the new location near the corner of 3rd St. and Atlantic Blvd. when it opens in early spring. Also, be on the lookout for Al’s new restaurant taking the place of the current Al’s Pizza later this year.