Forget N.Y. style. The specialty at this Bradenton restaurant is ‘Florida pizza’

During her college days, Hillary Koester delivered pizzas for the original Five Star Pizza restaurant in Gainesville.

Years later, the franchise has branched out across the state and Koester owns two of its locations.

Her second Five Star Pizza restaurant opened at 5942 34th St. W. late last year. She said what her pizzeria brings to the Bradenton pizza scene is a Frankenstein mash-up of all the best parts of well-known styles.

“People ask all the time what kind of pizza we have,” Koester pointed out. “New York, Chicago or New Jersey? Because everyone thinks that their pizza is the best pizza. My answer is that this is Florida pizza.”

Koester said Five Star uses fresh ingredients, too. The produce comes in fresh, their signature pizza sauce is mixed in-house and the mozzarella cheese comes straight from Wisconsin.

Matt and Hillary Koester of Five Star Pizza, which opened recently near the State College of Florida and IMG Academy. Tiffany Tompkins

“Our idea is that we’re a fresh alternative to big-box chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s,” Koester said.

Koester’s other Five Star location is at 2730 Stickney Point Road in Sarasota.

Since opening in Bradenton three months ago, the restaurant has been met with a terrific response from customers, Koester said. Part of that comes from the dining experience Five Star offers.

Of the 19 Five Star locations in Florida, only two have dine-in service, including the Bradenton location, Koester noted. There are perks that come with dining in, too. Each of the booths has its own TV, along with a remote so guests can watch whatever they like while they eat.

The pizzeria’s proximity to IMG Academy and the State College of Florida makes it a hit with the students, as well.

Koester says she has regulars who love to spend time there between classes, using USB ports in the walls to charge their electronics.

“We want everybody, no matter who you are, to come in here and be comfortable,” Koester said.

Those aren’t the only incentives to eat in, though. Five Star offers $7.99 meal deals, which include an entree, a side and a fountain drink, for dine-in and carry-out customers.

And then there’s the “Piezilla challenge,” which pits you and a partner against a 24-inch behemoth of a pizza. Contestants have 25 minutes to eat it all, and if they do, there’s a $250 Five Star gift card in it for them.

Bradenton’s Five Star Pizza is located at 5942 34th St. W. Tiffany Tompkins

Koester’s husband, Matt, left his job a few months ago to help run the new Five Star location. He said they give a 15 percent discount to all IMG and SCF students and staff when they show their ID.

Five Star’s menu items include specialties such as the bacon double cheeseburger pizza, with beef, bacon and extra cheese toppings. There are also salads, Philly rolls and chicken wings.

But every now and then, Koester expects things to go a little sideways. When that happens, she hopes customers will reach out to her directly with their complaints.

“I’m very accessible as an owner. My information is on the website and people can use that to get to me directly,” Koester said.

“If there ever is a problem, I want people to know they can come to us so we can figure it out. It’s always good to get feedback, both good and bad.”

The restaurant delivers pizza throughout much of the Bradenton area until 3 a.m. every day, but dine-in services close at 11 p.m.

For more information, visit Five Star’s website at

Ryan Callihan: 941-745-7095, @RCCallihan