Irked by lack of slice joints, Glide Pizza owner builds one on the Beltline

After living in New York for a decade, Rob Birdsong created Glide Pizza as a response to the lack of slice joints in Atlanta.
Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee
Caption
After living in New York for a decade, Rob Birdsong created Glide Pizza as a response to the lack of slice joints in Atlanta. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

People who excel at crafting pizza often get hooked early on. The touch of wet dough on the fingertips, the aroma of sweet tomato sauce bubbling on the stove, the magic of conjuring mozzarella from milk — if you’re exposed to these essential elements of the pie while young, the fascination lingers.

I’m thinking of Anthony Spina of O4W Pizza; Chris Wilkins of Root Baking Co. and Pizza Jeans; and — my latest discovery — Rob Birdsong of Glide Pizza.

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Glide Pizza’s garlic pies are made with garlic, mozzarella, Parmesan, olive oil and parsley — no sauce. We added sausage and mushrooms. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Glide Pizza’s garlic pies are made with garlic, mozzarella, Parmesan, olive oil and parsley — no sauce. We added sausage and mushrooms.
Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Glide Pizza’s garlic pies are made with garlic, mozzarella, Parmesan, olive oil and parsley — no sauce. We added sausage and mushrooms. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Atlanta-born, Colorado-educated and Brooklyn-baked, Birdsong created Glide from equal parts nostalgia and frustration. His affection for the pie started young. As a kid, he used to have birthday parties at Fellini’s. “Teenage Ninja Turtles were my heroes, and the only thing they ate was pizza,” Birdsong, 38, told me.

While in college, he worked at a Boulder pizza parlor, where he did a bit of everything, from making pies to delivering them. During a 12-year marketing career in New York, he became accustomed to slices for lunch. When he moved home to Atlanta and took a job at a PR agency in Midtown in 2017, he got a bit crusty about the paucity of pizza near his Peachtree office.

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Caption
Glide Pizza’s Georgia Scorcher (top) comes with cupping pepperoni, pickled serranos, red pepper flakes and drizzles of Mike’s Hot Honey; the Homegrown features mozzarella, mushroom, green onion and dollops of pimento cheese. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Glide Pizza’s Georgia Scorcher (top) comes with cupping pepperoni, pickled serranos, red pepper flakes and drizzles of Mike’s Hot Honey; the Homegrown features mozzarella, mushroom, green onion and dollops of pimento cheese. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Glide Pizza’s Georgia Scorcher (top) comes with cupping pepperoni, pickled serranos, red pepper flakes and drizzles of Mike’s Hot Honey; the Homegrown features mozzarella, mushroom, green onion and dollops of pimento cheese. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

So, he cooked up an idea of starting a pizza restaurant. He wrote — and revised, many times over — a business plan. He tested, and retested, recipes. He went on a weekend pizza binge in New York. After getting laid off from his PR job, he decided to get serious about his half-baked scheme, and came close to inking a lease. Once the pandemic hit, emptying the office towers of Midtown, Birdsong scaled back his vision, opting for a walk-up window at Irwin Street Market, a rough-and-tumble property anchored by Jake’s Ice Cream, next to the Atlanta Beltline. It just so happens to be the exact spot where Spina found fame.

Could lighting strike twice?

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Glide Pizza’s menu board features a fantastic sweet-hot slice called the Georgia Scorcher. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Glide Pizza’s menu board features a fantastic sweet-hot slice called the Georgia Scorcher. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Glide Pizza’s menu board features a fantastic sweet-hot slice called the Georgia Scorcher. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Glide arrived at the end of July. Since then, I’ve been hearing about glimmers of greatness. A neighbor from New Jersey confided that Glide reminds him of the pizza he grew up eating. He’s tried pies all over town, and this is the one for him.

With this knowledge, I proceeded to Glide on a gloomy Wednesday. I had ordered a couple of pies to go, but I couldn’t wait. I was starving. I bought two slices and retired to a picnic table beside the building.

First, let me tell you about the Homegrown, a collaboration with the popular Memorial Drive diner of the same name. A white pie, with house-made mozzarella and dollops of Home Grown’s pimento cheese, it’s topped with mushrooms and green onion. The Homegrown was a solid, well-crafted slice, with a thin, black-bottomed crust, but it wasn’t quite a home run. I didn’t taste a lot of pimento cheese.

Caption
Rob Birdsong in front of his Glide Pizza window on the Eastside Beltline

Rob Birdsong in front of his Glide Pizza window on the Eastside Beltline
Caption
Rob Birdsong in front of his Glide Pizza window on the Eastside Beltline

On the other hand, the Georgia Scorcher was on fire.

Topped with cupping pepperoni (thinly sliced, so that it curls), pickled serranos and red pepper flakes, and drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey, the Scorcher was a perfect marriage of sweet and salty, especially where the droplets of honey had landed in the cupped palms of pepperoni. The crust was thin and crackling — in particular the rolled over sections of border that had baked to a hollow shell. Possibly the best slice I’ve had, the Georgia Scorcher confirmed the hype and burned its name into my heart.

Arriving home with two 20-inch pies in giant white boxes, I was crestfallen to discover that I had messed up my order — big time. Instead of one pepperoni pie and one garlic pie with toppings, I mistakenly bought two garlic-style pies. Oops. Oh, how I had fantasized about dotting the pepperoni with honey! To be certain, they were gorgeous pies: the plain garlic in all its olive oil-drizzled, parsley-sprinkled glory, and a second garlic, with wonderful house-made sausage and mushrooms, plus Glide’s own ranch dressing and pickled jalapeños.

Nothing to do but text my neighbors. “Pizza, anyone?” My gaffe was their good fortune.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Caption
Glide Pizza is located in the same by-the-Beltline nook where O4W Pizza got its start. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Glide Pizza is located in the same by-the-Beltline nook where O4W Pizza got its start. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Glide Pizza is located in the same by-the-Beltline nook where O4W Pizza got its start. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock


GLIDE PIZZA

Menu: New York-style slices and pies

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: a slice of Georgia Scorcher and a slice of Homegrown; a plain garlic pie and a garlic pie with half sausage, half mushroom

Service options: takeout only; in-house delivery program, powered by electric bikes, coming soon

Outdoor dining: yes, shares a common patio with other tenants in the building

Mask policy: yes, required for staff and patrons

Address: 660 Irwin St. NE, Atlanta

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; noon- 9 p.m. Fridays; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Sundays

Website: glidepizza.com

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