Most of the pizzerias in Sarasota and Manatee counties serve the kind of thin-crust pies that originated in New York City's Little Italy in the early 1900s. But not all of them. One notable exception, which I included in my best pizza places story that ran in February, is Demetrios' Pizza House in Bradenton.
Located on Cortez Road West since opening 46 years ago, Demetrios' is famous for its soft-crust pan pizzas, which are placed in one-inch-deep pans and baked in one of the restaurant's six gas ovens. Greek immigrants Dimitrios “Jimmy” Sokos and wife, Helen, joined by his sister-in-law Paula Ludera, worked in New York City restaurants before relocating to Bradenton and adopting a rather unique approach to pizza making.
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"Our pizza since day one has been a combination of different varieties of pizza," said Gus Sokos, the son of Jimmy Sokos and longtime co-owner of Demetrios' with his aunt, Ludera. "You here of Sicilian, Chicago and New York pizza and we're a combo of all of them. In the 1970s, there wasn’t much in Florida. There were three pizza places in town: us, Pizza Hut and another family-owned palace called Mario’s. We were the only pizza places in town and our combination of all the different styles was the key, that's what made us a hit."
The soft but sturdy crust, by the way, is an ideal vessel for toppings, which Demetrios' showers on pizzas such as its gyro, muffuletta, and my personal favorite, Demetrios' Special that comes covered with a veritable buffet consisting of bacon, black olives, green peppers, ham, hamburger, mushroom, onion, pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese.
Unfortunately, and this is no April Fools' Day silliness, Demetrios' Pizza House will serve its final pie on April 16th.
"We wanted to leave on a high note while we still love what we do and the last two years have been extra challenging with staffing more than anything else," Sokos told me Thursday morning for this story published later the same day. "You just have that gut feeling it's the time to step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor."
Like many others in Bradenton, I plan to make at least one more visit to Demetrios' before that last pie is served. Pizza, probably several pizzas, will definitely be ordered and I'm a big fan of their Greek salad and crispy chicken wings. Oh, and their soup! My wife Kristin adores Demetrios' Famous Chicken Orzo Soup – and so do I.
"I know this retirement is supposed to be a great thing, and it will be, but right now it's really hard," Sokos told me. "I'm going to miss the friendships we made with all these people over all of these years. That’s the best part of being in the business. The people you meet and the relationships you build."
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Looking for fun things to do? We recently published our list of the best events happening in the region now through May followed by my Top 5 column focusing on things to do today through Sunday. Seeking more options? Jimmy has his picks for best concerts as well as top movies playing at local theaters and/or on streaming
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Wade Tatangelo is the Herald-Tribune’s dining and entertainment editor overseeing the weekly Ticket publication. He's also author of the Best Things to Eat and Top Things to Do columns and co-leader of USA Today Network's Uniquely Florida team creating statewide content. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He may also be reached by email at email@example.com. Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Best restaurant for pan pizza in Sarasota-Bradenton is closing