A woman drove her car into Jimmy's Food Store Wednesday afternoon, crushing two tables, smashing a few bar chairs and tearing a hole into the side of the the Italian deli. While nobody was hurt, customers were enjoying a meal at an adjacent table in the same dining area.
I stopped over to snap a picture of the scene and bumped into James DiCarlo, the owner's son, who was working the front register when the car came crashing in. While a father and son contracting team deconstructed the damage, I asked James how far the car came into the place.
"It moved the espresso machine," he told me, cool as iced coffee. And then I asked him if the machine still worked, and he said it did. And so I asked him if they'd be open tomorrow and he said yes to that, too. And because it was getting close to closing time, I asked James the only rational question that could be asked at that point on a balmy February evening.
"Could I still get an Italian beef sandwich?"
So, while the contractors were boarding up Jimmy's gaping wound, I sat in the back dinning area and tore into an Italian beef. I was recording my notes, and you could hear chunks of giardiniera falling from the soggy bread into the empty Styrofoam tray in my lap.
It was a mess, but not too messy, coating my fingers and palms, but not running down to my elbows like a dipped Italian beef would. The giardiniera was spicy, oily and salty and I was ravenous for it. James told me the lady who "parked" her car out front mixed up her gas and brake pedals, but I have another theory: She was making a beeline for one of these sopping wet odes to roast meat.
Jimmy's may not offer the greatest specimen ever, but they adhere to the basic rules, modestly invoking what is truly one of the world's greatest sandwiches. The thinly shaved roast beef is curled from a bath in hot gravy. They use loads of crunchy giardiniera, and a cheap bun that almost stands up to the soaking wet meat.
It's made with Vienna beef, not a bottom round, wet-roasted on-site. They don't wrap the gut bombs in foil; they serve them in a sandwich box, instead, and they don't ask you if you want it dipped or juicy. They just dump gravy over the thing, but as far as authentic Italian beefs go, Jimmy's mostly gets it right. It's likely the best Italian beef you can get in Dallas.
Eno's makes an OK one, but the gravy is a little flat and they serve it in a dog bowl. I hear Weinberger's Deli out in Grapevine has one too, but I haven't been yet. It's hard to get motivated to drive so far when something this good is right around the corner.
Jimmy's is a no-nonsense deli that's been banging out meatballs, red sauce and hoagies for the last 46 years. They've got tomatoes from California and Italy, and sport peppers and green relish from Chicago. They've even got the impossible-to-find Taylor Ham from Trenton, New Jersey.
They have real history, too. The building was destroyed by a fire in 2004. That disaster shuttered the store for more than a year before the owners reopened, but this one will not.
James said they should have everything fixed in about a week. I walked back up front and he was ringing up a suited gentleman who'd come to buy a few bottles of red. Behind him an older woman held a bag of frozen ravioli. Aside from the hole in the wall, filled now with a moaning reciprocating saw and the sounds of ripping wood, it was business as usual for Jimmy's. I bet they're pretty busy tomorrow.