It's hard to imagine a downtown Italian grocery achieving such popularity. But Jimmy's Food Store, run by brothers Paul and Mike DiCarlo, has an enviable following.
Why not? The family operation has been in the same location since 1966...except for much of 2005, when fire gutted the building. They cure sausages, bring in Italian specialties, stock a unique selection of wines and even provide meat for such restaurants as Fireside Pies and Bolsa.
Paul and Mike began working in the store as teenagers, helping out their father (James)...who got his start helping out his father, the original Jimmy.
That's a lot of tradition, especially for Dallas. In fact, Paul's first birthday present helped him practice for the family business...
1. If you were opening today, wouldn't people warn you away from that location?
I don't know. This neighborhood has changed quite a bit. It's gotten better compared to what it was.
2. How has Dallas changed over the years?
Everyone is more knowledgeable about food. There's a lot of information, a lot of cooking shows, a lot of Italian cooking shows. That really helps my business. People want to cook Italian dishes at home. I like it.
3. People always used to say Dallas didn't have any good Italian restaurants...
The best are probably owned by Italians. But when you're going out--if you're going to spend money--you want more than food. The right atmosphere matters.
4. When you were growing up, ever consider doing something else for a living?
No. I mean, for my first birthday I got a toy cash register. I was bred for this--my brother, too. Wine boxes, samples--those were our toys.
5. Do you go to Italy and compare?
Yeah. It's a whole different story over there. They've always been home grown, supporting the local and seasonal markets. That's just catching on here.
6. But you were once a more general market, right?
Yeah. All the refugees made their camp here. We had Cambodians and Vietnamese and Cubans, depending on what happened over there--like I said, this neighborhood has changed quite a bit. When markets began opening specifically for them, that's when the Italian decision came. And that's our heritage, anyway.
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7. No German sausages?
No. I think of Spain every once in awhile. I will try to sneak in some Spanish cheese or Serrano ham. But nothing else.
8. Do you have a favorite cured meat?
Prosciutto is good, but I like bresaola, the air-dried beef.
9. I've seen a lot of people cram into the store...
Oh, lunch is our busiest time. There's a lot of hooting and hollering. It gets rough, but it gets done.
10. Are you ready to turn the business over to your kids anytime soon?
I don't think I want this for my kids--not the seven day weeks. Let them get an education and go nine to five, off on the weekends. This is a good living, but they can find something better.