Doughnut Dollies brings new, elevated doughnuts to Virginia Highland

An assortment of flavorful doughnuts is available to customers at the newly opened Doughnut Dollies shop owned by Anna and Chris Gatti.

Shay Bowman

Virginia Highland has seen an influx in shop changes over the past years, but the newest addition, Doughnut Dollies, looks to bring new variety to the space.

Doughnut Dollies opened on Aug. 21. It houses three shelves full of flavorful doughnuts for customers. The shop is small but elevated with its thoughtful design and fresh environment.

“I am very excited for the addition of Doughnut Dollies to the neighborhood, because I think it adds to the environment in Virginia Highland,” sophomore Caitlin Stanley said. “It gives people a place to meet and hang out, and it adds energy to the area.”

Owners Anna and Chris Gatti opened Doughnut Dollies six years ago, after deciding they wanted to fill the extra space in their restaurant Canvas, a cafe and bakery in Marietta.

“The doughnut concept was my husband, Chris’ idea,” Anna Gatti said. “He thought of doughnuts because he had worked at the Donut Hole every summer in Destin, Florida since he was 13 years old. He did everything there from deliveries, to bussing tables and even helping out making the doughnuts.”

Anna Gatti first realized her passion for cooking when she was a kid.

“I got involved in cooking very early on,” Gatti said. “I was 15 years old when I went to the nicest restaurant in my town, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I showed up one afternoon and asked the chef if I could hang out and see how they did things.”

She did not realize her love for baking until after culinary school, and even as a pastry chef, she never made doughnuts. Gatti says she initially thought all doughnuts tasted the same but over time, she grew to love them.

“It’s definitely my favorite thing that I’ve ever done,” Gatti said. “We have a lot of fun doing it. It’s obviously crazy hours and a lot of hard work, but it’s been an unexpected passion for me.”

Doughnut flavors include S’mores, Cereal Bowl and Boston Creme. Their signature doughnut is the “Dollie.”

“It is a take on a creme brulee,” Gatti said. “We roll a brioche in sugar and torch it on the top. It is filled with a creme brulee filling. It is definitely one of the customer favorites.”

Gatti’s sister-in-law, Jane Heinle, was instrumental in the decision on the name. After doing research on doughnut shop names, Jane learned about the Donut Dollies.

“They were a supplemental arm of the Red Cross, so not nurses, but volunteers that went out and provided recreation for the troops,” Gatti said. “The troops started to call them ‘Donut Dollies’ as a little term of endearment. We liked the connection of food and comfort.”

Heinle passed away shortly before Doughnut Dollies opened, but she remains part of the operation through another fan favorite doughnut, the Sweet Jane, an overstuffed brioche filled with vanilla-bean buttercream.

Junior Sarah Prevost tried the Sweet Jane.

“The doughnuts were really good,” Prevost said. “They were not just regular doughnuts, they were more elevated than that.”

Currently, there are 24 doughnut options, but the flavors are constantly changing to accompany the season.

“We decide what to make based on what we like to eat,” Gatti said. “We get inspired by holidays, traditions and events. We usually have specialty boxes for every holiday. For example, our Valentine’s box was floral-inspired.”

Senior Zoie Armstrong, who went on opening weekend, appreciated the selection and was excited about the new shop.

“I really liked the wide variety of doughnuts available,” Armstrong said. “It was so cute. The doughnuts were really good.”

The doughnuts are made by hand every morning and shipped out to the locations. The process takes two days, allowing time for the dough to ferment and develop a fluffy texture.

“I think what is unique about the doughnuts is that we’re bringing a very high-end craft into something that’s not necessarily thought of as high-end food,” Gatti said. “It’s a very humble food and we try to elevate it with the things that we know how to do: our techniques and our recipes.”

All doughnuts are made from scratch. They are stuffed with cream and adorned with different toppings including bacon, cereal and peaches.

“You can tell that the doughnuts are made of fresh ingredients and are hand-made which is really exciting,” Stanley said. “They are not basic ‘Dunkin Donuts’ doughnuts. They are way more flavorful.”

Doughnut Dollies has been a success in the Virginia Highland so far. The hard work of Gatti and her team has paid off.

“It has been extremely humbling,” Gatti said. “We’ve been so welcomed in the neighborhood. So many people came out. The line down the block was amazing. We are so glad to be there, and it has been well received by my team and definitely needed because we have never worked so hard.”