Words and Images by Al Blanton
Nowhere in America is there a café more centered on community than the Pizza Bar in Carbon Hill, Alabama. Aside from the worn wooden walls etched with signatures, the framed tributes to local sports stars, the Pizza Bar is a place where folks have gathered to swap stories and feast on a variety of fare for the last 48 years. Indeed, time is as equal to the legacy of the Pizza Bar as the food.
Lacy Allison and his brother, Carlos, swung open the doors of the Pizza Bar in 1972. The two brothers had been running local pool halls when they forged out into the unknown world of restaurateurs. “We didn’t know how it was going to come out,” Lacy said.
Splitting duties, Carlos ran the managerial side of the business while Lacy handled much of the cooking. “We started out with just hoagie sandwiches and pizza.”
Back in those days, the restaurant was small. “It was about 10 x 14 or something like that,” Lacy said. “We had five barstools, that’s all.”
Over the years, the Pizza Bar went through several remodels and the menu expanded to include burgers and a wider array of sandwiches. And the customers continued to arrive in droves.
Five years ago, after a bit of convincing, Lacy sold the Pizza Bar to Jayson and Catie Merchant. Lacy wanted to make sure he passed the restaurant on to someone who was going to care for it and become a part of the community—“it ain’t gon’ be no picnic,” Lacy says—and the Merchants have seemed to honor the Allisons’ legacy by not changing a thing.
Although the ham & cheese is the one thing that Pizza Bar is famous for, the restaurant would not have been able to survive across five decades without the support of the good people of Carbon Hill.
“It was built on the community,” Lacy says. “Everybody got along. We never had much problems.” 78