New restaurant specializes in pizzas, muffalettas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 2010

NATCHEZ — Walter Duke eats and sleeps Pepperoni’s.

But that is what it takes to make sure a restaurant is running smoothly.

Duke, and his wife Jenny Duke, are the co-owners of Pepperoni’s, which recently opened in Tracetown Shopping Center.

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“I practically live here now, so I eat here every day,” Walter Duke said.

The restaurant specializes in “Italian fast food” offering pizzas, calzones, muffaletta sandwiches and a sampling of other sandwiches and salads. Duke previously owned Pepperoni’s restaurants in Baton Rouge and Denham Springs, La., but after marrying Jenny, a Natchez native, he brought his love for food to Natchez.

“I thought there was an opening for this type of restaurant in Natchez,” he said. “When I started Pepperoni’s it was because I wanted to be able to get a really good muffaletta sandwich, and I couldn’t find one, so I opened a restaurant. This is a tried and true menu that worked other places, and it will work here.”

Pepperoni’s offers a full menu of dine-in, carry-out and delivery items and even has a take-and-bake option for those wanting fresh from the oven pizza at home.

“If someone lives out of town, then we can give them a freshly-made, but unbaked pizza, to take home with them,” Duke said. “In just 20 minutes in the oven at home, it is ready and hot.”

Duke worked for approximately three weeks to turn the vacant Tracetown space into a casual, family dinning experience. It wasn’t an easy task considering the building had been vacant for 12 years.

“I had to make people forget this was an old building,” he said. “I had to make it feel like it was new, like it was Pepperoni’s.”

That means green paint, tablecloths and pictures of some of Natchez’s landmarks.

But the location was too good for Duke to not be willing to put in all the hard work.

“I consider this the center of Natchez,” he said. “We looked at other places, but this was good for my customers, good for my drivers. We have plenty of parking, and its easy to get to through the new intersection.”

The restaurant serves a lunch and dinner buffet each day along with a menu of pizzas and calzones like the Mexican and spinach and artichoke and traditional flavors like, well, pepperoni.

“I took me a whole year to design the menu and design the kitchen to where my cooks have an easier time turning out a good product,” Duke said. “We still experiment with things in the kitchen. Sometimes they turn out, sometimes they don’t.”

Pepperoni’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Delivery is available on orders of $15 or more. There is a $1 delivery charge added to those orders. The full menu is available for delivery.

Phone-in orders should be placed at 601-442-0058.

Prices range from $3.99 for a hamburger to $13.99 for 12-inch specialty pizzas.

Pepperoni’s is located at 55 Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, Suite 16.