It’s reasonably understandable for a brand as old as Mr. Gatti’s to want to adapt to the changing restaurant landscape.
The pizza chain, founded in Austin in 1969, began with a focus on “real” ingredients and a yeast-risen dough, plus a tangy tomato sauce that people either seemed to love or dismiss.
Along the way, various distractions surfaced: There was GattiLand, which offered a separate game room, attached to the buffet-style restaurant. Then there was GattiTown, which featured a midway-esque 10,000-square-foot video-game arcade.
Both fulfilled the innate desire most parents have when dining: You could tell your kids to get lost and know they were somewhere relatively safe, even if they were annihilating an alien with a disturbingly large toy gun.
But with the opening of a new “flagship” store at Museum Place, and others in North Richland Hills, Dallas, Richardson and Mesquite, the folks behind Mr. Gatti’s Pizza are seeking to come full circle, putting an emphasis on creative ingredients like Akaushi beef and winning pairings such as prosciutto and arugula.
Another difference from Gatti’s past is the general attractiveness of the Fort Worth location — it’s all hardwoods, with a gleaming bar and floor-to-ceiling windows. It diverges from those old roadside Central Texas locations where you’d meet your Great-Aunt Rebecca for a slice, but it fits right in here, in the Cultural District. You’re almost surprised when you enter and realize it’s an order-at-the-counter place.
An early-dinner visit last week found the large dining room virtually empty, save for a few employees eating their dinners early. We took the oversize menus in hand and chose a table and a plan of attack.
Some things never change, though, and before we knew it, the kids had found a small room that houses “that alien game,” an arcade grab machine and The World’s Largest Pac-Man on a 10-foot-tall video screen.
In their absence, we ordered the kids pepperoni pizza ($3.99) — think personal-pan size — knowing it was a safe bet.
The Ginormous Meatballs ($7.99), were indeed ginormous, but a riskier undertaking. Made with Akaushi beef and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, they were shotput-worthy — extraordinarily dense. Although they had a nice flavor, simmering in that piquant tomato sauce, and were drowning in a mix of melted cheese, the spheres lacked much nuance.
The Chop Chop salad ($8.99), was similarly crammed with ingredients — iceberg lettuce, Genoa salami, bacon, provolone cheese, black olives, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and Parmesan — and was satisfying. I liked the crunchy seeds, salty (if canned) olives and the light vinaigrette that bathed the bowl. Everything was fresh, albeit exceedingly predictable. You know how this is going to taste, and well, so be it.
Same for the pizza. Pillowy and doughy, the 12-inch Pig Pie ($11.99) aroused interest with its indulgent ingredients: Italian fennel sausage, bacon, ham, onions and provolone. Plus, an Alfredo sauce, practically unnoticeable, aimed to pull it all together. Two over-easy eggs crowned the concoction, which turned out to be less cutting-edge and more “Just cut me one piece.”
Everything we tried was new to this Gatti’s version 2.017, and the inclusion of various pastas (a vegetarian deep-dish penne pasta dish sounds intriguing) means virtually every diner can find something appealing.
Gelato ($3.99) and a s’mores pizza ($6.99) are available, should any kids still be at the table and want dessert.
Mr. Gatti’s Pizza
3268 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily