Two Alumni Launch Pizza Endeavor in Highland Mall, Future ACC Campus

Sauced's owners proudly hold two of their handmade artisan pizzas

Austin Community College alums Annette Rhode and Carson Nunez are on the forefront of an urbanist revolution, and their tools are handmade artisan pizza, a solid business plan, and dreams for the future.

The two graduated with culinary arts degrees last spring and quickly opened their first venture, Sauced pizzeria in Highland Mall. The location offered low rent and great prospects.

“I remember when Highland Mall was the place to go,” Annette says. “It was thriving and vibrant, and it will be nice when it gets that way again.” (Read about ACC’s plans for the renovation of the former J.C. Penney property, the first step in the college’s long-term vision for Highland Mall.)

Meanwhile, Sauced has been building a solid base of satisfied customers through word-of-mouth and other promotions. The pizzeria is one of several restaurants currently serving customers in the Highland Mall Food Court, located upstairs in the center of the mall.

“We’re doing it on our own, without any financial help from banks”

Annette and Carson personally greet each customer who approaches their counter. They can order from a menu that includes pasta dishes, salads, and pizza.

Sauced uses only familiar, natural ingredients in their dishes and no additives or preservatives. Annette and Carson make every dish by hand and use locally grown organic ingredients when in season.

“Sauced is much healthier than fast food, but not much more expensive,” Annette says. “I think that’s what makes our pizza special.”

With its thin, homemade crust, signature sauce, and fresh toppings, Sauced pizzas fuse Carson’s pastry talent with Annette’s love of savory cooking.

“There’s something about how every component we both brought to the table came together,” Annette says. “I’m more a picky New York pizza kind of girl, but I really like what we’ve created.”

Annette and Carson met at ACC, when they were students in the Culinary Arts program.

“I gravitated toward the old guy,” Annette says. “The good thing about ACC is there are students at all levels, and all stages of life.”

Before attending college, Carson tended bar and Annette worked locally – “I used to cook in private schools, for kids,” she says. They wanted to round out their industry skills with an order of higher education.

“I liked taking years of what I already knew by just doing it, and putting it through a funnel, getting it to jell,” Annette says. “The science aspect of food is what I went back to school for, and ACC satisfied me there.”

Annette Rhode and Carson Nunez stand in front of Sauced Pizza

The two graduated from ACC in 2011 with their associate degrees, a newfound business partnership, and a flexible plan.

“We thought about food trailers, but these past few summers have been very hot,” says Carson. “People we know who own food trailers really struggle through the summer months.”

A friend suggested they start a pizza business at Highland Mall – the low rent included ovens and other equipment. “We’re doing it on our own, without any financial help from banks,” Carson says.

Within 30 days of opening, their business was paying its own bill. “That is one really good thing for a small business to be able to say.” Carson says.

The Sauced team enjoys serving fresh pizzas while keeping their eyes on a promising future. However, their business success isn’t all they’re proud of.

“I think we have really good pizza, and I am not the bragging type,” Carson says.

Back to Top

9 Responses to "Two Alumni Launch Pizza Endeavor in Highland Mall, Future ACC Campus"