East Idaho Eats: At Righteous Slice, pizza is art and it’s made with passion and love for customers
This story is brought to you by Colling Professional Services.
REXBURG – When Bill and Cheryl Crawford opened a pizza restaurant in Rexburg three and a half years ago, their goal was to give customers a memorable experience, providing them “the best pizza they’ve ever had anywhere in the world.”
Righteous Slice at 175 West 200 South offers a menu of 13 signature pizzas hand-made with ingredients imported from Italy. The menu includes the brand-new New York Pizza served with the Crawfords’ own brand of sausage. There’s the Bee Sting pizza, a crowd favorite which is a sweet and spicy combination of salami and pepper-charred pepperoni topped off with chili flakes, ricotta cheese and honey.
And we can’t forget the Katie Kay dessert pizza with strawberries, blueberries, raspberry sauce and cream on top, along with a variety of shakes. EastIdahoNews.com sampled the menu, which you can watch in the video above.
Whether the Crawfords brand of pizza is truly the best is for customers to decide, but judging by the restaurant’s consistently large crowds, it’s a concept that seems to be working.
In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, Bill describes the initial response from the community as “overwhelming … in a good and bad way.”
“Overwhelmingly positive because people came to try it and I think we resonated with a few of the people who came in but Neapolitan pizza takes a lot of skill to really make it excellent. It took us six months for us to feel like we were producing what we thought the community would value,” Bill says.
Keeping people coming back and making orders the right way while maintaining a reasonable wait time for customers is a delicate balance that Bill says was challenging in the beginning. After about 18 months, Bill says they were able to work out all the kinks and find a rhythm that works for them.
Then in 2020, COVID-19 happened, forcing him and his team — like many other restaurants in eastern Idaho — to adapt their business model to stay afloat. While some restaurants have never fully recovered from shutdowns and social distancing requirements, Bill says the pandemic “ended up being a real blessing” for them.
“As a pizza place, we were able to start putting food in boxes and ship it out. We added online ordering, we changed our point of sale to have better control over where the orders were going and we have a delivery service now,” Bill explains. “When the dining room reopened, we were stronger than ever.”
Not only did they grow during the height of the pandemic, Bill says pizza sales went up 42% in 2021.
In August, Crawford’s cheese pizza took second place in the Northwest region at the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas and Bill is planning a trip to Italy in April to participate in the World Pizza Championship.
“It’s been known to bring over 800 competitors from all over the world … so it’s kind of like walking into the Superbowl championship stadium,” he says.
A veteran of the Iraq War, Bill stepped down from a career flying F-16s for the U.S. Air Force in 2017 to become a restaurateur. He was drawn to pizza specifically because he felt it provided a lot of opportunity for creativity and self-expression.
Under the tutelage of 12-time world pizza champion Tony Gemignani at the International School of Pizza and Roberto Caporuscio, President of the Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers, Bill has developed his own style and perfected his own recipes.
Aside from running the restaurant, Bill also teaches a business management course at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
In preparation for launching their New York-style pizza, Cheryl attended school in San Francisco last fall to sharpen her skills in other pizza-making techniques.
“We’ve been focused on this Neapolitan style and we’ve felt like we’ve gotten as far as we can go. Our oven was at capacity and we’ve physically maxed out the number of Neapolitan pizzas we can sell,” says Cheryl. “In order to grow, we needed to increase our product line.”
They recently added a new oven to accommodate an expanding menu and increases in the number of orders.
Since opening, Bill says they’ve had a lot of requests to open another location in Idaho Falls. The couple is currently looking into that and exploring their options to make it happen.
“A lot of things have to happen for that to be the right thing for us to do but if we do it, it will be to provide opportunities for our best people to grow,” he says.
Righteous Slice is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a 10 p.m. closing time Friday and Saturday.