TCU-area residents aren’t lacking in pizza joints, with five practically stacked against each other from Forest Park to South University on Berry Street. Even so, there’s another– “Pizza Snob”– opening soon on University.
Still, longtime owner of Perrotti’s Pizza, Richard Perrotti Jr., says his pizza speaks for itself.
Perrotti’s Pizza started crafting pies for customers in the TCU area 27 years ago. It set the trend and gained the trust of the then-3,500 undergraduates.
Perrotti’s started as a house-turned-business in the same spot it stands today.
Except the spot looks a little different now.
Richard said he let TCU knock down the former Perrotti’s Pizza, which thrived for 13 years, to build the GrandMarc at Westberry Place Apartments in 2008—for 20 years of free rent.
The university gave him $100,000, which bought all the necessary equipment the shop needed, he said.
TCU may have knocked Perrotti’s down, but the heart of the operation lies in the dough, something Richard crafted from scratch.
It’s in the dough
Richard’s idea for developing his own dough came from working at Domino’s Pizza in his early twenties. He said he had to thaw frozen dough while preparing pizzas nightly.
He said he was in awe of the money making machine Domino’s was. The shop he worked at racked in $4,000 a night selling pizzas at $10 a piece.
After five years of experience under his belt, he was ready for something bigger.
The Rhode Island native tweaked the recipes he picked up at Domino’s to create unique products for his menu. And no, his Italian family didn’t provide him with recipes—although the restaurant’s lasagna is his grandmother’s recipe. They’re hairdressers.
Thus, he knew nothing about running a pizza business.
He said he wished he had taken some business courses, but he admits the structured environment of class wasn’t suited for him.
Richard soon realized more money goes into a business than he had originally thought. That $4,000-a-night profit Domino’s made didn’t seem like much to him anymore.
Family-run, family-suited environment
Perrotti’s Pizza opened its doors in the spring of 1986. Richard kept the menu simple at first with classic pies, but soon realized he needed something to give Perrotti’s an edge.
That’s when their homemade subs, pastas, breadsticks and other menu items came into play.
“My ex-wife had pointed out that a family might not want pizza more than once a week, but if there’s something for each person, they’ll keep calling,” Richard said.
When Richard is on duty, he runs the whole operation. One minute he’s answering phones, the next he’s throwing a pizza in the oven and the next he’s sitting down with customers talking about TCU football or his family. He is all over the place—literally.
Casey Monserrate, a manager and driver at Perrotti’s, said a normal day at the shop usually entails Richard dancing around the kitchen and talking everyone’s ear off.
“It really brightens this place up when he’s around,” she said.
Richard sets the tone for his employees– not accepting anything less than the kind of people you’d want to sit down and share your pizza with. He said good customer service has helped him gain long-time customers.
“It’s weird to see kids who used to come in with their parents now be parents themselves and bring in their kids,” he said.
And he wants to keep up that tradition.
“You see all those kids going to Topper’s (on Berry street) drunk at 3 a.m., and yeah, that might give them more business, but this is a family place,” he said.
Richard said he likes to keep the staff tightly knit.
Monserrate said Richard treats him like family even though he’s only worked there for a year and a half. Payton Fugler, who answers phones on the night shift, agreed, as she has only worked with Richard for two months.
Fugler said Richard makes the staff learn the names of returning customers.
On a similar note, Monserrate said at his previous job, there wasn’t half as much of a staff-customer dynamic.
“I like that I get personal feedback and that I’m not just hidden in the kitchen the whole time,” he said. “Working here isn’t really work, it’s making money while having fun.”
Perrotti’s may be the longest standing pizza joint in the area, but the staff is constantly finding ways to bring in more customers.
Through the FrogSaver App, Perrotti’s serves more TCU students because of deals including buy one pizza, get a second free on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Richard said in a struggling economy, you have to keep changing things up.
In his last six years at the new location, none of the other businesses under the GrandMarc have survived besides Perrotti’s.
The rent for businesses under the GrandMarc was previously more than $3,000, he said. Now, they’re half that to attract more renters.
So, what else gives Perrotti’s an edge?
Yes, free. Richard gives away more than $400 a month in beer, which he said is cheaper than marketing it. He does however check ID’s and require a food purchase.
So even with a seemingly booming pizza market surrounding it, Perrotti’s Pizza carries on beneath the GrandMarc, using new strategies to draw new customers, while relying on the fundamentals that made it a TCU-area establishment.