Photo by Kathy Tran

Al Dente Long

“We talk more with our hands,” he says.

DiCarlo’s great-grandfather ran grocery stores all over Dallas until 1966, when the last store moved from the Fair Park area to the current location at Fitzhugh and Bryan.

Tony’s grandfather, James, first ran the Old East Dallas store, hence the name “Jimmy’s.” It catered to the neighborhood, which included immigrants from all over the world. For decades it was a typical grocery that stocked specialty Asian and Hispanic items. But the DiCarlo family recipes for meatballs and marinara continued to fill their own kitchens with aromas from the old country, and in the 1990s they began serving some of the family favorites in the store on holidays.

In 2006 a fire gutted the store, and as the DiCarlos rebuilt, they made the decision to focus on Italian goods, bringing wine, sausage, sandwiches and sauces to the slowly gentrifying neighborhood.

Tony started helping out around the store when he was 10. His father, Paul, paid him in meatballs. Paul and Tony’s uncle Mike ran the store after taking it over from their father, Jimmy.

“That is why Italians have kids,” Tony jokes. “For labor.”

Paul told his son to find a desk job, but Tony always felt attached to the store he now manages. He calls himself an “old soul,” as he enjoys Frank Sinatra and a slow-cooked bowl of sauce more than most young men in their 20s.

“I listened to music with my grandpa during the day,” he says. “People tell me to go back to the 1930s where I belong.”

The Dicarlos are an old-school East Dallas family; they even were friends with the Campisis back in the day. Tony lives in the same Lakewood area home where his grandfather lived, and he and many of his family attended East Dallas Catholic schools St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Lynch.

Today, Jimmy’s stocks everything from fresh produce to locally made ice cream to soppressata to the family marinara and meatballs that put it on the map. They supply several restaurants, including Bryan Street Tavern, with sausage, and have monthly four-course wine dinners in the back room.

“Guests can have the family dinners that we grew up on,” Tony says. “We get to share a little bit of our family with everyone else.”

Photo by Kathy Tran.

Jimmy’s Food Store

Ambience: Mediterranean Casual

Price Range: $10-$15

Hours: 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday

4901 Bryan

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