The best deal in town on Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Homemade Italian sausage. A muffaletta sandwich that will last for four lunches. Fans crowd into Jimmy’s Market, a 50-year-old neighborhood institution in East Dallas, at lunchtime and on Saturday mornings. It’s diminutive and funky, shelves crammed with delicacies from Italy and New Jersey and arguably the best all-Italian wine selection in the city.
What many may not know is that the winemakers who craft the juice come all the way from Italy to centerpiece wine dinners, in a barely labeled ‘Wine Room’ in the back of the store.
On one wall are photos of the hundred winemakers who’ve made the pilgrimage to Jimmy’s to keynote a wine dinner. Among them: Allegra Antinori, whose family’s wine heritage goes back 632 years, Giorgio Rivetti, whose winery, La Spinetta, with an Albrecht Durer rhinoceros on the label, is one of the most recognized in Italy, and Luca Currado, whose century-old winery Vietti is a teenager by Italian standards, which makes some of the best wines in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.
Why does this happen? It’s the brainchild of Paul DiCarlo, whose father started Jimmy’s back in 1966, and who with his brother Mike now runs the store. Paul goes to Verona, Italy every year to a festival called Vinitaly, where hundreds of Italian wineries market their wares. Over the last several years he’s recruited winemakers to come to the store for the dinners.
“They don’t like the Texas heat,” DiCarlo says, “so they don’t come in the summer.” But once the vacation month of August is over and the grape harvest is in, they do come, sometimes it seems, all at once.
Jimmy’s will host as many as fifty wine dinners any given winter. They average about $80 per person, but that fee always includes a bottle of wine, usually signed by the winemaker, for each guest. The meals, usually prepared by Allesio Franchaschetti, an Italian chef who lives in the neighborhood, or Joanne Bondy of the Dallas storefront Stocks and Bondy, are gourmet fare served humbly in the Circolo Del Vino, (wine room).
With the noise level of a high school basketball game and the decor of a community theater set, the Circolo Del Vino does not take itself seriously. The room only holds about forty-five people, giving the guests plenty of one-to-one contact with the winemakers. They’ll talk about their families, the towns they come from, and “the famous Jimmy’s.”
“We usually sell out in about three hours,” DiCarlo says. You can’t get a ticket if you’re not on the email list, and to do that you’ve got to contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.