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Talk with Mike Acosta for a few minutes, and it becomes apparent: The man really, really likes making pizza. Really.
It's not just an act.
Monday, Acosta opened Mr. Delicious Pizza in a shopping center off Viera Boulevard. He's doing what he's done most of his life, and he couldn't be happier.
"I'm coming back to the east side of Viera," he said. "I'm bringing the flavor. I'm bringing the delicious. I'm bringing it to the next level."
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Acosta has made pizza in Viera for 17 years. He was managing partner of Viera Pizza, which first opened in a Mobil station on Viera Boulevard at Murrell Road. When that station became a 7-Eleven, Viera Pizza moved to a new Mobil station at Viera Boulevard and Stadium Parkway.
Last year, that station also sold to 7-Eleven, along with the Viera Pizza brand. Acosta continued to work at Viera Pizza for nine months to train the new management.
Then a space became available near Star Rush Drive behind Long Doggers.
"This place, I'm 100% owner," he said, looking around the the bright, colorful kitchen and dining room.
The eat-in space is small, just 15 seats at tables and a bar. Outdoor seating will be added soon. Acosta said he intentionally designed the restaurant to be mostly kitchen. That's so he can keep up with big orders for catering, events and school functions. He expects much of the business to be pick-up and delivery.
The menu is streamlined, with wings, a few pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, garlic knots and, of course, pizzas, available by the pie or by the giant slice.
'I grew up in pizza'
During his 17 years making pies in Viera, Acosta has become synonymous with pizza. He started the Power of Pizza Charities, which hosts multiple running events, such as the annual Eat My Crust 5K, and raises money for organizations such as Viera High School athletics, the Special Olympics of Brevard, Quest Elementary School and Calvary Chapel 412 Youth Missions.
As he ran in the various races, he earned the nickname Mr. Delicious from people eager to finish and partake of post-race pizza.
He's continuing the Power of Pizza events with the help of race director Brittany Streufert, and he's keeping the nickname.
"We still want to be very, very active in the community," he said. "This is the community that raised us. As the community grows, we want to grow with it."
Acosta grew up in Brevard County, and he grew up with pizza. His father, Roberto Acosta, moved here from Mexico to play jai alai.
"He decided to get out of jai alai. He met my mom. She was working at a pizza place," Acosta said, "so he got a job there, too."
Acosta's parents bought the Christy's Pizzeria in Cocoa, one of four in Brevard County at the time.
"I grew up in pizza," he said. "I knew I'd never be an athlete like my father, so I decided, hey, let's do pizza like my father."
Even after his parents divorced and sold Christy's, Acosta stayed in the pizza business, working at Sbarro at Merritt Square Mall.
He studied hospitality management at University of Central Florida and took a job at Hooter's after graduation.
"But I'm not a corporate type guy," he said. "I really enjoy making pizza. I enjoy the interaction with customers. Life is too short to go to work and punch a clock."
If you visit Mr. Delicious Pizza, chances are good you'll see him in the kitchen making pizza, knots and wings. If he's not there, he's probably out delivering food.
"I'm here, in-store," he said. "I'm in there doing the same thing my team is doing."
For now, he's got 11 employees, including his stepson Shane Crocker as general manager and Shane's girlfriend Alexa Winstead as assistant manager.
His mother has since passed away, but much of his family is involved in the new venture.
Acosta's father and stepmother, Renee Acosta, are helping in the restaurant, too.
His sister, Rebecca, works there part-time. And his wife, Shay, will pop in when she can, though she stays pretty busy with their three younger children, Zoe, 5; Uriah, 8; and Xavier, 10.
"My brother Alex, he's the only one in the family who hasn't done pizza," Acosta said. Older brother, Tony, now an accountant in Canada, was a manager at Christy's.
Alex, who works in information technology, does help out with the Power of Pizza Charities, though.
It's been more than three months since Acosta left his old job.
"When you're used to go, go, go, then just stop ...," he said. "But it was good to spend time with my kids."
Now he's ready to be back in the kitchen. He's encouraged by the community support he's gotten, on social media and from people just stopping by.
"It's really exciting to put on an apron," he said. "We're excited to do what we love."
Mr. Delicious Pizza is at 1950 Viera Blvd. Suite 101, Viera East. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 321-655-6555 or visit mrdeliciouspizza.com.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Former Viera Pizza partner opens Mr. Delicious on Viera Boulevard