Mitch Rotolo is living the dream. Back in 1996, he ditched his nine-to-five job to open Rotolo’s Pizzeria in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near Louisiana State University.
“Mitch Rotolo was nine-to-fiving it and decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. He wanted to open a bar that serves pizza,” said Gina Cooper of Rotolo’s. Cooper serves as office manager of Rotolo’s, doing a little bit of everything from accounting to marketing and operations.
Rotolo’s Craft & Crust will open its first area pizzeria at 681 S. White Station Road at the White Oak Shopping Center in early 2022.
“It tastes like heaven, really,” Cooper said of the pizza.
The secret, she said, is the sauce, which is made in-house. The dough is hand-tossed.
At one point, Rotolo’s split into two concepts: the original pizzeria and Craft & Crust.
“Craft & Crust is kind of like the older cousin to the original pizzeria,” Cooper said. “Our existing pizzerias are sticking around; they won’t be going anywhere. We will just be opening Craft & Crust locations from now on.”
Cooper describes Craft & Crust as a more modern iteration of the original pizzeria, a growth within the brand.
The menu at Craft & Crust is kicked up a notch as well, with truffle fries, calamari, and whole roasted cauliflower and other vegan items.
A large focus of Craft & Crust is its bar. It will have some 40 beers on tap, many of them local. Craft & Crust will also offer deep dish pizza.
Craft & Crust offers three styles of pizza: the craft pizza, with a regular crust; Chicago Deep Dish; and the thin crust. They also serve Buffalo wings, a bacon mac and cheese pie, pasta dishes, soups and salads, sandwiches, and desserts.
Locations have bars with added meaning.
“Each bar top at each location is specific to that region,” Cooper said. “So, at our Baton Rouge location, the bar top is a 200-year-old cypress. One of [the bars] in Frisco, Texas, is from an old railroad that ran through Frisco. They pulled wood from that. We try to find something specific to each region just to put a little ‘home logo’ on it, a shout out to those regions.”
There are currently 29 Rotolo’s locations. Memphis will be number 30. All of the Craft & Crust locations, except for one, is a franchise. They are opening one to two locations a year, according to Cooper.
She said most locations are in the South, and the Memphis location is the first out of their general range, as is a second location opening in Houston.
Rotolo’s is both a college hang-out and a family-friendly restaurant, Cooper said.
“We want both. It’s hard to say you can have both. I use myself as an example. I’m in my early 40s and have a child, and I want to go eat pizza and have a few beers even if my kid’s there,” she said. “Rotolo’s is a location where you can do that. We bring in a slew of draft beer options. The atmosphere is just cool. It’s basically a place to get rid of the nine-to-five blech and have a seat, kick back, relax, and let us do the cooking, have a beer or one of our craft cocktails, and forget about everything that’s outside of the walls.”