TUPELO – A pizza restaurant at Midtown Pointe Mall recently underwent a change in ownership, hours and even a special crust recipe.
Jesse Bandre at Exceed Technologies recently purchased Sweet Tomato Pizza and turned it into a Pizza Doctor franchise after eating there every week for seven years.
Bandre’s desire to purchase a pizzeria started mainly from the fact that he ate lunch there nearly twice a week for seven years, walking to the mall’s food court to grab a slice during his lunch break.
“When I came up to get lunch one day last August, the gate was closed and my heart just broke,” Bandre said. “Three days later, I went by again and asked the mall management what happened and that’s when I found Ms. Necey and talked to her about running it.”
Bandre said the main reason he purchased the restaurant was because of one special lady behind the counter – Mama Necey.
Necey worked at Vanelli’s for 16 years and six years at Sweet Tomato Pizza before leaving to another restaurant after it closed down. It didn’t take long for Bandre to track her down and work out a proposal to bring her back – this time as manager.
“It’s just amazing to me that somebody has such a passion for pizza, and the only reason I bought this place was because of her,” Bandre said. “We agreed that I would buy the store if she would run it, it was our agreement that I would run Exceed and she would run Pizza Doctor and she would make my lunch everyday.”
Necey comes in at 8 a.m. every day to make fresh dough and the sauce, as well as slicing all the vegetables by hand.
“She said the only way to know the food is rotten on the inside is if she cuts it herself,” Bandre said. “As soon as she said that, I knew I had a manager and a partner in the pizza business and it was Mama Necey, she takes care of the business like it’s her own home.”
The store sells breakfast pizza. Pizza muffins made with egg whites, cheese and sausage are sold until lunch.
And when lunch time rolls around, customers can pick two 16-inch slices of pizza from a selection of fresh pies, with a side salad and a drink for $7.99.
The store also sells single or double scoop Italian gelato as well as appetizers such as cheesesticks and oven-baked wings dipped in barbecue, Teriyaki and buffalo flavors.
Eight types of pizza fill out the menu from a personal pan size to 12-inch and 16-inch sized pies.
Customers can come up with their own flavor combinations or choose from a standard list of menu items such as alfredo chicken, barbecue chicken, five cheese, fajita chicken and a south-of-the-border themed pie called “The Mexican.” They also have a typical meat lovers or vegetarian-style pie.
Calzones and hot sandwiches are also on the menu with Pizza Doctor’s special sweet crust. A salad on the side reduces some feelings of indulgence – almost.
Into the future, Pizza Doctor is working on creating “Celebrity Pizzas” with local restaurant owners, such as a jelly dessert pizza and a pimento cheese pizza.