If you were raised in Austin, you likely have a little Mr. Gatti’s Pizza marinara running in your veins. For kids, it was the place to play video games and open birthday presents. On Friday nights, it was spot for lovestruck teens to run into their crushes after a big football win. It didn’t matter if the pizza was good. For many locals, it was where life was lived.
But on September 26, the owners of the beloved local chain threatened that status quo with the announcement that 13 of its Capital City stores had been sold to a franchise investment group Three Dough Boys, LLC. Worse yet, two of the three new operators, though locally based, were alumni of Papa John’s.
Needless to say, a social media freakout ensued. (One just needs to read the comments on KVUE's Facebook post about the story to believe the pepperoni apocalypse has arrived.) Locals gasped in horror at the thought of a new ranch dressing recipe. One particularly distraught fan even vowed that she was "done" with Austin.
The reaction left many newcomers scratching their heads. After all, Mr. Gatti’s empire now stretches to over 100 locations across the Southeastern United States. Imagine getting apoplectic if Cici’s changed operators or if Pizza Hut brought in an exec from Domino's? Still, for fans of the pizza joint, it was akin to learning Patrick Terry had sold his namesake burger joint to someone from McDonald’s.
Mr. Gatti's may be huge now, but it has been an Austin staple since 1969, when original owner James Eure moved his Stephenville, Texas, pizzeria to town and renamed it using his wife’s maiden name.
Lucky for fans, CultureMap can confirm the new owners have promised not to change a thing, save for a few updates to the some of the older dining rooms. The pizzas will use the same recipes, the buffets will still help college students stretch their budgets, and customers can still confound their out-of-state friends by dipping everything in that ranch.
In fact, the franchise agreement means that there will be even more places for kids to get amped on carbs. According to a release, 10 new locations will be coming to the Austin area, although it did not reveal the dates.
For now, Austinites can take a deep breath and relax. Those breadsticks aren't going anywhere. Gatti’s may not be able to honestly claim it's “the best in town,” but at least it’s a token of old Austin that isn’t in danger.