Fire Damages Florida Pizzeria

A recently opened pizza restaurant was nearly destroyed in a fire Tuesday morning, officials said.

A driver spotted smoke coming from Casa di Pizza at 4658 State Road 64 E. around 5:30 a.m. and called 911, said Bradenton Fire Marshal David R. Dobrzykowski. When firefighters from the Bradenton Fire Department broke through a back door, they found a fire inside the restaurant's food-preparation area.

He said that, during the fire, no one was at the restaurant or the Braden River Plaza strip mall where the restaurant sits. Dobrzykowski said the fire did about $30,000 to $40,000 damage to Casa di Pizza and smoke damage throughout the plaza.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated Tuesday. Dobrzykowski said the fire appeared to have started sometime Monday night and just smoldered.

"It was probably burning quite some time," he said.

Twelve firefighters got the fire under control within 15 minutes, Dobrzykowski said. No one was injured.

The plaza is owned by several members of the Benderson family of Benderson Development. A message left Tuesday at Benderson's local office was not returned. Attempts to reach the business owners were not successful, and no one was at the restaurant Tuesday afternoon.

Dobrzykowski said the restaurant had only been open for a few months.

Dobrzykowski said there was no evidence of foul play in the fire. A preliminary cause was not available.