Jun 14, 2022
By Joanne Beck, courtesy of The Batavian
Batavia native Matt Gray is making his way in the restaurant business, along with partners Matt Boyd and Jon Mager, and looks forward to circling back to serving a favorite dish from his childhood.
Matty’s Pizza, founded in 1997 and closing shop around 2008, is back in the restaurant scene, Gray says. It seemed to be a perfect fit for the empty Fresh Lab space in Eli Fish Brewing Company, he said.
“Pizza is very similar to pasta, where everyone has a favorite. And nobody's wrong. So, Matty’s has its own recipe, and we're very proud of it. It's unique, as they all are in Batavia,” he said during an interview Friday with The Batavian. What we do as far as making a pizza that we stress is that we make sure the toppings are plentiful, but also even and that everything is out to the crust.”
The thought of pizza rekindled a fond memory of going ice skating with his school friends and stopping by the former Pontillo’s to share a small pie and a dozen wings. He also absorbed some lessons from his Uncle Moose, who made pizzas alongside Sam Pontillo Sr., while his father helped out with deliveries. Gray liked to make his own pizzas and forged official territory when opening Matty’s in February 1997.
He left that business when he moved down south to Raleigh, NC, and open up the first of what is now five full restaurants under the name Buffalo Brothers Pizza and Wing Company. He and Boyd wanted to bring the authentic Buffalo-style chicken wings to the area, and they eventually caught on, Gray said.
He and Mager celebrated the opening of Eli Fish in March 2018. The Main Street building also housed two incubator food shops, Eden Vegan Cafe & Bakeshop and Eatwell Grill. After Eatwell moved out to occupy another space, the Eli team got together to mull what to do with that vacant space.
“And it was pretty unanimous around the table that they all wanted Matty’s pizza back,” Gray said. “Pizza’s always been a love of mine. And I've now been back in Batavia since 2007. My children were born after I moved home. They've never had a pizza that I've made other than the ones I made at home. I’ve been making pizza … for a while I was doing it full-time, especially while we were trying to get the recipe exactly right where we were before. To be honest, it's fun. I really enjoy it.”
Think pizza is just a piece of dough and some toppings? Not for Gray, who tested out a number of different flours before settling on the right one for the consistency and texture he wanted. Ovens had to be set up correctly, he said, and there was a trial period of pizza specials served at Eli Fish. Now that most of the details have been more fine-tuned, he and his partners are ready for business.
Matty’s serves a 10-inch, which is slightly bigger than a personal-sized pie, and the 14-inch large, which is available for take-out. There will be a pizza of the week, and Gray looks forward to slicing up the special combinations of a crab rangoon, reuben, Greek, and hot piggies version, which includes everything from seafood, a ricotta and olive oil base with three different kinds of olives and artichoke hearts to a triple whammy of pepperoni, bacon and ham, hot cherry and jalapeño peppers with a hot honey drizzle, breaded eggplant, pepperoni, feta and mozzarella with roasted peppers, and other upscale varieties.
Take the chicken and waffles pizza, which Gray wasn’t initially keen about but ended up loving, he said. That one has a spicy maple drizzle, he said with a hungry smile. He's been having fun trying out new recipes and getting back into the pizza business, he said.
“Yeah, it means a lot to me to have Matty's Pizza back in Batavia. That's where I got my start,” he said. “And I always joke around with my kids that, you know, everything that we provide to each other and for everyone else is all because of pizza. So it's really like bringing everything full circle back to where it all began.”
Matty’s is at 109 Main St., Batavia, and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and noon to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It’s closed Sunday and Monday. Matty’s Pizza and Eli Fish Brewing Company will have food items for sale at the Eli Fish Carnival, from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Square.
“We’re keeping it simple,” Gray said. “We’re really enjoying exploring what we can do with pizza,” he said. “There was a great response. I was pleasantly surprised at how many people remembered Matty’s in a positive way and expressed their excitement when they came in. It's been 14 years; that's a long time.”
Gray, who also owns Alex's Place, has scaled back his own hours in the pizza shop to a couple of shifts per week. He has hired a manager, Jeremy Totten of Elba, who is taking care of the day-to-day needs. Totten operated a casual dining restaurant for more than 10 years, Gray said, and had prior pizzeria experience as well. The shop is open for take-out and delivery, or patrons can order from the Eli Fish menu or through Door Dash.
For more information, go to mattyspizza.com or call (585) 345-9909.