Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Delicious Tradition in Five Points; Some of the Customers Have Dined at Kostas Pizza Italian for Decades

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Delicious Tradition in Five Points; Some of the Customers Have Dined at Kostas Pizza Italian for Decades

Article excerpt

Byline: Brianna Sigman

Kostas Margaritis, the owner of Kostas Pizza Italian Restaurant in Five Points, burst through the kitchen's swinging doors throwing his hands up in sheer excitement.

The only thing not Greek about him is his restaurant, which is only Italian because that's the first food he learned to cook when he came to America some 40 years ago and worked at an Italian restaurant.

"Welcome back!" he happily cried, as he fully embraced the woman jogging toward him.

"Oh, I've missed you, Gus!" she said, calling him by the nickname Kostas' customers use to get his attention. She began searching through her purse and then smiled as she pulled out a tiny, jeweled elephant.

"A gift from India," she said, "for you."

Kostas proudly accepted the gift. Eventually she left, but not before thanking Kostas for the lasagna he had waiting at her house post-trip.

"Six weeks away," she said, "and I missed your pasta the most."

It doesn't take even an hour sitting in the restaurant to see that this personal owner-customer exchange is far from uncommon. In fact, Kostas himself said that his restaurant, one of the oldest in the historic Five Points neighborhood, runs purely on this loyal foundation of customers doubling as family members.

The flavorful, homey atmosphere of Kostas Pizza Italian has kept Jacksonville locals returning day after day for nearly 40 years. And, as cycles often go, these regulars keep Kostas coming back in, too.

"These tables, these people," Kostas emphasized in his strong Greek accent. "They're special."

"They tell me I make their day, but really they make mine. This restaurant is why I'm alive."

And Kostas is very faithful to this lifeblood of his.

"He's here every single day of the week," said Danielle Rowland, one of Kosta's six employees (none blood, but all family). "We're closed on Sundays, but he's here. He goes to church and then comes here and watches football in the back."

Rowland added that Kostas' loyalty isn't limited to just being at the restaurant. He works it, too.

"It's completely normal and expected to see him cooking, cleaning, serving and fixing up the restaurant," she said. …

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