(Photo by: Kathy Tran)

(Photo by: Kathy Tran)

An Italian tradition

On Lower Greenville, there are two categories of restaurants. The flashes in the pan arrive with bright new “concepts” and marketing ploys to get people in the door, but but often don’t last long. The elderly statesmen of the area know that longevity is not built upon marketing, but upon great food, customer service and atmosphere, which Terilli’s has been providing in East Dallas for 32 years.

In 1985, Jeannie Terilli came out of a divorce ready for something new. After running Cardinal Puff’s on Greenville with her ex-husband, she leaned on her Italian father’s family recipes and opened Terilli’s on Lower Greenville, offering live music and hearty fare ever since.

In the early days, she could be found on the street in front of the restaurant, giving away free food to attract customers, just like the bistros in Italy. An early favorite was the Italcho, an Italian version of nachos with chips of fried pizza dough covered in red sauce, cheese and a variety of toppings.

Managing partner Amanda Ahern, Jeannie’s daughter, grew up working the register in her mother’s restaurant before she could drive a car. While she initially didn’t want to work in the family business, she found her way back to the restaurant after college.

At left, Terilli’s Italchos unite Italian flavors and Tex-Mex delivery methods.(Photo by: Kathy Tran)

At left, Terilli’s Italchos unite Italian flavors and Tex-Mex delivery methods. (Photo by: Kathy Tran)

“It is romantic and casual, yet fine and eclectic,” Ahern says. “We have guests in workout clothes sitting down next to someone on a date, and it all kind of meshes.”

In 2010, when a fire took out the whole block and left nothing but the building’s facade, the family considered throwing in the towel. But when they saw a memorial  of flowers and posters laid around the restaurant, they knew they had to come back. They sold 600 orders of Italchos on the first night back in business, affirming their decision.

Over the years, Terilli’s has seen numerous restaurants in the area come and go, and it has adapted to new food trends (they have gluten-free pasta and sauce) without losing the quality and consistency for which they are known. They added a rooftop patio and a Sunday brunch and serve a steak that Ahern says competes with any filet at a high-priced steakhouse, at a fraction of the price.

Jeannie Terilli is still involved in the high-level decision making, and even though she is in the process of passing on the business to the next generation, quality is still the priority.

(Photo by: Kathy Tran)

(Photo by: Kathy Tran)

“Customer is king. We would not have lights on without customers,” says Ahern. “We treat every customer like family.”

Did you know: Terilli’s will be featured in November on “Food Paradise,” a Travel Channel show that covers restaurants all over the world.

Ambiance: Old-school Italian
Price Range: $18-$63
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
2815 Greenville Ave.