How a mother dough is nurturing the future for this Detroit pizzeria

To the left, Fatima Beydoun, and sisters Zeinab Beydoun, (middle), and Mariam Beydoun, who recently began working for their father Ali Beydoun at his business Sicily’s Pizza & Subs in Southwest Detroit in response to the shop’s labor shortage amid the pandemic. (Photos by Cybelle Codish)

Pizza delivery and carryout were a bright spot in the pandemic-era dining scene as folks sought the comfort food as they waited out months of lockdown orders, dining room closures, and uncertainty.

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At a time when restaurants nationwide struggled over whether they could even keep their doors open, the pizza business thrived. According to Technomic, an industry research firm, pizza sales grew by just under 5 percent in 2020.

Dough being mixed at Sicily’s Pizza & Subs in Southwest Detroit, just one of many steps the pizzeria takes to make its signature sourdough crust. (Photos by Cybelle Codish)

That doesn’t mean that pizzeria operators were immune to the many economic pitfalls that other sectors of the restaurant industry were dealt. Rising food costs, a widespread labor shortage, and the proliferation of delivery apps that rake in high commissions from restaurants also impacted the pizza business.

As part of our Anti-Gentrifiers’ Guide to Dining in Detroit, we profile Sicily’s Pizza & Subs, a stalwart shop in Southwest Detroit that has remained a beloved establishment for more than 30 years. Owner Ali Beydoun explains to us the many adjustments his business has had to make during the pandemic and his vision for the future.

The yeasty aroma of sourdough, garlic, and butter hits your nostrils as soon as you enter Sicily’s Pizza & Subs on Vernor Highway, just east of West Grand Boulevard. There’s a faint rumbling of the traditional conveyor pizza oven as you make your way to the cash register.