Rotolo’s Pizzeria heating up in Tyler, Texas

When Mitch Rotolo founded Rotolo’s Pizzeria 18 years ago, he envisioned a neighborhood pizza place like he had known growing up in New Orleans.

“My vision was to have a really cool neighborhood place with great food and lots of fun,” he said.

Since starting the restaurant in 1996 in Baton Rouge, near Louisiana State University, Rotolo’s has expanded to 29 locations and is making its way to Texas.

A franchise group plans to open a Rotolo’s in the Village at Cumberland Park shopping center in Tyler by Thanksgiving, Rhonda Rubben said while visiting the site Thursday.

Rotolo’s will be next to Bed, Bath & Beyond in the new center, behind Austin Bank.

“We love the growth in Tyler and the expansion going on,” Rotolo said during a phone interview. “I think the other retailers (coming in) will be a huge magnet for what we do.”

Ms. Rubben, president of the franchise group bringing the restaurant to Tyler, said they looked at several cities in East Texas and viewed Tyler as a great place to open their first store in the area.

She said the Village at Cumberland Park “looked to be a great new development, and (we) seized the opportunity.”

Ms. Rubben was in Tyler interviewing possible general managers and said after one is selected, they will start hiring the rest of the employees and train them in October.

Construction of the new store should be completed in late October or early November.

“We want to have that fun, high-energy, pub-type atmosphere,” she said, adding that they also want to have family nights where portions of the proceeds could go to local schools.

“I’m a big believer in supporting the local community,” Ms. Rubben said.

They are using as many local contractors as they can and have bought their equipment in the area. She said they also plan to buy local produce to use in their dishes, they want to hang local art on the walls and feature area bands on the patio.

Rotolo’s will have a main dining area, a separate bar with televisions to watch sports and an outdoor patio, offering an atmosphere for everyone. She said they make their dough fresh every day and want to get their produce from local farmers.

“We do everything fresh,” she added.

They not only offer pizzas, including wheat and gluten free, but also salads, wraps, sandwiches, pastas, wings and appetizers. Ms. Rubben said they will try to use local fruits and come up with desserts that are popular in the area.

They also will serve 20 craft tap beers and she hopes to feature local breweries and wineries in the store.

Rotolo’s will have 20 to 30 employees. The Tyler store will probably open at 11 a.m. daily, and she is not sure of the closing time, Ms. Rubben said, adding that they will most likely expand their hours as more stores open in the shopping center.

“We’re super excited to be in Tyler,” Rotolo said.

Rotolo, 43, of Baton Rouge, said they want to grow the entire East Texas market, closing the gap between the one store in Lewisville and two in Shreveport.

“We’re really looking to develop the I-20 corridor,” he said.

Rotolo hoped the business would be successful but was happy with having only one restaurant, he said. As he got older, the company blossomed.

“I grew with the company,” he said.

There are now 29 Rotolo’s across Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.

Rotolo’s opened in Shreveport more than a year ago and noticed the East Texas territory was available, Ms. Rubben said. Tyler’s will be the second Rotolo’s in Texas, following one in Lewisville. They plan to open another in Beaumont soon.

Ms. Rubben said if the first Tyler restaurant is successful, they will look for a second location here, possibly in north Tyler toward Lindale, which could open in late 2015 or 2016. She said they will open up to five stores in East Texas, possibly in Longview, Waco and Henderson.