Photo Credit: Down North Pizza
Down North Pizza: The Black-Owned Eatery Employing Formerly Incarcerated Individuals
Philadelphia restaurant Down North Pizza is serving up pizza with a purpose. Or, as 36-year-old Founder and Owner Muhammad Abdul-Hadi likes to say, “slinging pies and saving lives.”
A native of West Philly, Abdul-Hadi opened his eatery in 2019 in another of the city’s underprivileged neighborhoods, North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion, with a very specific mission.
“We wanted to find the fine line where we can help and be profitable without taking from the neighborhood, but also to be able to add to it and uplift it at the same time. That was the goal.”
To achieve this goal, Down North exclusively hires formerly incarcerated individuals, providing culinary career opportunities at a fair wage and in an equitable work environment. By providing work opportunities to a part of the community that needs them most, the company hopes to do its part in helping to reduce recidivism rates.
Abdul-Hadi was inspired to pursue this important mission through his understanding of the neighborhood that he serves, as well as of the types of issues that plague the area.
“I understand that it’s an uphill battle entering society. After you’ve served, you’ve paid your debts to society, yet you’re always looked at as a convict. Even the term ‘ex-con’ in itself doesn’t really make sense because you’re still a convict once you’re released, and there are still a lot of barriers and obstacles you have to overcome just to be a productive member of society.”
“I figured if we can do something just focused on those individuals and try to try to empower them and provide as many resources as possible, then ultimately we can start to make a dent in the population of people that continuously reoffend and go back into this rat race…this hamster wheel of a system they have going on.”
And that is exactly what Down North Pizza has been doing since opening its doors. The pizzeria is known not only for its community-focused goal, but for its top quality customer service and amazing food. In addition to pizza, its menu includes wings, hand-cut fries, milkshakes, and fresh squeezed lemonades available in a variety of flavors.
Many of the menu items are named after hit songs by Philadelphia artists for an authentic vibe that is truly and distinctly Philly. Customer favorites include the Roc The Mic, No Betta Love, and Uptown Vibes.
In the future, Down North hopes to eventually further expand out of Philadelphia into other underprivileged neighborhoods in the United States.
“We’d like to push the line and assist in reaching more of this large demographic of people. One-third of the U.S. population is formerly incarcerated, so that in itself is large population that you can see needs help.”
Down North Pizza is located at 2804 W. Lehigh Avenue in Philadelphia, and is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon until they sell out. For more information, visit www.downnorthpizza.com and follow @downnorth_pizza on Instagram.