When most Austinites get a hankering for quality Neapolitan pizza, chances are they flock to upscale spots like Bufalina, 40 North, or Backspace. If chef Nathan Pearlman and business partner Diego Batista have their way, however, Austin's pizza devotees will soon be pulling up to a convenience store.
On December 6, the pair officially debuted Pizzeria Grata in an unexpected location: a window inside Beatniks Market at 4415 Manchaca Rd. According to Pearlman, the idea took shape when the store’s owners asked Batista if he knew anyone who wanted to take over the tiny cafe space.
With former Hops & Thyme chef Pearlman on board, Batista was originally going to open a commissary kitchen. But when the pair discovered a giant pizza oven left behind by former tenant Giovanni’s Pizza Stand, plans quickly changed.
Now the spot acts as a micro-pizzeria, serving pies like a classic margherita and a blanca with fresh mozzarella and garlic confit, along with intriguing options like the maise e tartufo topped with roasted corn, whipped ricotta, fried potato, bacon marmalade, and truffle.
Unlike gas station eateries that buy frozen ingredients from wholesalers, Grata is especially mindful of its sourcing. Some of the dough’s flour comes from respected producer Barton Springs Mill, local vegetables are used whenever possible, and Texas Olive Ranch oils are drizzled throughout. The sauce is made from certified San Marzano tomatoes for a balanced flavor.
Pearlman says he wants to challenge notions of where good food can come from, citing the fine cuisine found in convenience stores throughout Asia.
“That’s the beauty of what we decided to do here,” he beams.
Eventually, the team hopes to expand the concept. Pearlman says he would like to eventually open a mobile pizza truck or expand the restaurant to more spaces, but isn’t in a rush to go big.
“I really like the idea of keeping it small,” he explains. “I don’t think I’ll ever want to do another 250-seat restaurant.”
Calling Grata small is an understatement. The “dining room” is little more than five bar stools and a tiled counter. Still, Pearlman says the concept is doing robust take-out and delivery business in the South Austin area.
In celebration of its grand opening, Grata is rolling out specials until the end of December. Pizza lovers can check it out Sunday through Friday 11 am-11 pm or Saturday from 11 am-midnight. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the concept is closed.