South Austin's Pizzeria Grata serves up Neapolitan pies from an unexpected location

To find the restaurant serving Neapolitan pizzas with Italian tomatoes and dough made with flour locally sourced from Barton Springs Mill, customers have to park by the gas pumps at Valero, then make their way past the convenience store aisles filled with popcorn, chips, gum and candy bars.

Pizzeria Grata’s brick oven, small kitchen and a few bar seats are tucked into the back of Beatniks Market & Cafe on Menchaca Road in South Austin. Owner Diego Batista said in the last year since opening in December 2019, neighborhood residents have not only found the pizzeria, but they have also helped it thrive in a time when most restaurants are going through extreme challenges.

“We call it the little engine that could. It has surpassed all our expectations and been popular in the community,” Batista said.

Batista is the CEO and chair of BelaCor Investment Group, which provides capital for businesses ranging from restaurants to automotive shops to tech startups. He previously lived in the South Austin area and got to know the owners of Beatniks Market & Cafe. After various businesses cycled in and out of the space in the back with the brick oven, the convenience store owners asked him if he could take over.

Batista put a team together and said his focus would be on authentic Neapolitan ingredients mixed with Texas flavors. The tomatoes and the flour are especially important to the Neapolitan style, Batista said, and for seasonal recipes, Pizzeria Grata uses ingredients such as Texas olive oil, honey and Fredericksburg peaches.

“My big push was, ‘If I’m going to do this, I want to do all the ingredients from Italy or local,” Batista said.

The business model for Pizzeria Grata—focusing on takeout and curbside with limited dine-in seating—has allowed its business to grow while other restaurants or bars have dealt with major revenue losses due to the loss of in-person dining. Because of that success, Batista said he is looking to expand.

“What we are noticing, we’re getting a lot of feedback from the community asking for more seating,” Batista said. “We’re looking for another location to accommodate dine-in,” he said.