SAN FRANCISCO (NEXSTAR) — It’s been one rocking week for Steve Mazzari.
It was just last Friday night when the 28 year-old San Francisco resident was having drinks with friends at a chain restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf when a 3.7-magnitude earthquake hit the Bay Area.
Later that night, a chance encounter with Oakland news outlet KTVU Fox 2 led to Mazzari becoming an overnight viral sensation. Fresh from that evening’s drinks, Mazzari agreed to do an interview about the quake.
“I was just slammin’ Dollaritas up at the Applebee’s with some friends and it was a big shake. It was only like, probably a couple of seconds. Everyone stopped talking. It was a big one,” Mazzari told a KTVU crew.
For the uninitiated, Dollaritas are a popular limited-time promotion by Applebee’s which offers $1 margaritas. This year’s promotion ended Oct. 31. But thanks to Mazzari’s interview, (including a sign-off that “Dollaritas are back!”) the restaurant’s drinks are getting unexpected extended promo.
Over the course of the week, Mazzari made it onto some national and international new sites, in addition to meteoric social media adoration. “Imagine going to Applebee’s for a Dollarita and walking out as an icon,” on user of X, formerly known as Twitter, marveled.
“That night the clip started making the rounds and I thought it was viral to some degree in San Francisco,” Mazzari tells Nexstar. “The next day, I saw the post was up to 2 million views and I thought, ‘That is a lot. That is officially viral.'”
The start of this week prompted even more coverage, with the clip taking off online again, with coverage on national sites like Buzzfeed.
“That’s when I went from thinking, ‘Oh, this is funny,’ to being at work — which that whole work day was just a bust — and just walking around trying not to throw up and freak out, like ‘This is actually happening.’“
And it’s still happening. But just who is Steve Mazzari, the mustachioed internet star dubbed “Dollarita Steve”?
Mazzari, 28, is a software engineer and graduate of Duke University. The Applebees enthusiast is also the founding engineer for the San Francisco-based Mentaya, a platform that works to streamline mental health payments and reimbursements for therapists and their patients.
His self-effacing and kind personality have made him something of an internet sweetheart.
This is especially true based on the the social media reaction from gay men, some of whom have spent the better part of the week discussing Mazzari on X.
Mazzari’s sense of humor and comfort with the outpouring of “thirst” messages only seems to have made certain sections of what was formerly known as “Gay Twitter” love him more.
“I knew that I would probably do well but I definitely did not think I was going to approach Lady Gaga levels of appreciation. It’s bananas and it’s very endearing to me,” he says.
But he says he also wants to be clear that, as a fervent LGBTQ+ ally, he also doesn’t want to make a big deal of his allyship, which he says should just be how people are.
“I actually think it’s kind of sad or dark in a way. Like, ‘Roll out the red carpet for Steve because he treats gay people with respect and treats them normally.’ I don’t see gay people as this other community. They’re just in my life as my friends and a part of my community.”
Shrewdly, Mazzari made a quick move to capitalize on his big moment, establishing an account on the personalized video message site Cameo this week. In case you’re interested, a Dollarita Steve Cameo is priced at a reasonable $6.
In one of his video requests, Mazzari responds to a payer’s meme-backed question: “Can I get you to say ‘gay rights’?”
“You can definitely get me to say gay rights,” says Mazzari. “Gay rights. Trans rights. Those are all human rights. Nothing but love — let’s go, baby!”
For just about anybody, the week that Mazzari has had might be overwhelming. While he says the experience has been all positive, he says the unexpected amount of attention has been something to contend with.
“It has been all positive and everyone has been very, very nice. But definitely, Monday and some of Tuesday, I was definitely kind of freaking out. I was like, ‘What does this mean? What is the rest of my life like? Is there bad stuff on the horizon?’ I don’t know. I definitely had to do a lot of very deep breathing to get through some points,” he says. “On Monday night, I woke up just in a pile of sweat. But I want to be clear: no one has overstepped or been super weird. I know I’ve said I’ve been getting some silly DMs and replies but everyone has been oddly polite… But just the scope of it all [the attention] is overwhelming.”
And you may be wondering — has he been in touch with Applebees? Stay tuned.
Earlier this week, Applebees responded to Mazzari’s photo on X with a request to “take it to the DMs.”
While he says contact has been “light” and that there’s nothing solid in place. “I cannot promise anything. But let’s just say I’m working on it and I have high hopes.”
Super Bowl commercial or not (Mazzari’s jokey request), Mazzari is embracing his newfound internet stardom for now. His good-natured approach to his fluke virality is best exemplified by his LinkedIn bio, which touts both his vast engineering experience but also clarifies: “Yes, [I’m] also Dollarita Steve.”