When I think of Italian cuisine, the first cities that come to mind are usually New York or Chicago. However, the influence of Italian immigrants on American cuisine extends far beyond these major cities. In fact, the rich history of Italian cuisine in Dallas County, TX is a testament to the enduring impact of Italian culture on American food.
The Early Days of Italian ImmigrationThe first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Dallas County in the late 1800s. Most of them came from southern Italy, specifically Sicily and Calabria.
They were drawn to the area by the promise of work in the booming railroad and cotton industries. These early immigrants faced discrimination and struggled to adapt to their new home, but they brought with them a rich culinary tradition that would eventually become an integral part of Dallas County's food scene. One of the earliest Italian restaurants in Dallas County was Campisi's, which opened in 1946. The restaurant was founded by Carlo "Papa" Campisi, who immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1904. Campisi's quickly became a local favorite, known for its authentic Italian dishes and warm hospitality. Today, Campisi's is still owned and operated by the Campisi family and has expanded to multiple locations throughout Dallas County.
The Rise of Italian-American CuisineAs more Italian immigrants settled in Dallas County, they brought with them their traditional recipes and cooking techniques. However, they also had to adapt to the ingredients and flavors available in their new home.
This led to the creation of what is now known as Italian-American cuisine – a fusion of traditional Italian dishes with American ingredients and influences. One of the most iconic dishes of Italian-American cuisine is pizza. While pizza has been a staple in Italy for centuries, it was the Italian immigrants in New York who popularized it in the United States. In Dallas County, one of the first pizzerias was opened by Joe and Sam DiCarlo in 1957. The brothers had immigrated to the United States from Sicily and brought with them their family's pizza recipe. Today, DiCarlo's Pizza is still a beloved spot for authentic New York-style pizza in Dallas County. Another popular Italian-American dish is spaghetti and meatballs.
While this dish may seem quintessentially Italian, it actually originated in the United States. Italian immigrants in New York began adding meatballs to their spaghetti as a way to stretch their limited meat supply. This dish eventually made its way to Dallas County and can be found on the menus of many Italian restaurants in the area.
The Influence of Italian Cuisine on Dallas CountyItalian cuisine has had a significant impact on the food scene in Dallas County. Today, there are countless Italian restaurants throughout the county, ranging from casual pizzerias to upscale fine dining establishments.
These restaurants not only serve traditional Italian dishes but also incorporate local ingredients and flavors, creating a unique fusion of Italian and Texan cuisine. One of the most well-known Italian restaurants in Dallas County is Lucia, which opened in 2010. The restaurant is known for its authentic Italian dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Chef David Uygur, who co-owns Lucia with his wife Jennifer, has been recognized as one of the top chefs in Dallas County and has even been nominated for a James Beard Award. Another popular spot for Italian cuisine in Dallas County is Nonna, which opened in 2007. The restaurant is owned by Chef Julian Barsotti, who draws inspiration from his family's traditional recipes to create modern Italian dishes. Nonna has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the best Italian restaurants in the country by Food & Wine magazine.
The Future of Italian Cuisine in Dallas CountyAs the population of Dallas County continues to grow and diversify, so does its food scene. While traditional Italian dishes will always have a place in the county's restaurants, there is also a growing trend towards modern and innovative takes on Italian cuisine. One example of this is Sassetta, which opened in 2016. The restaurant offers a contemporary twist on classic Italian dishes, using locally sourced ingredients and incorporating global flavors.
Sassetta has quickly become a popular spot for both locals and tourists looking for a unique dining experience. Another restaurant pushing the boundaries of Italian cuisine in Dallas County is Macellaio, which opened in 2019. The restaurant specializes in "modern Italian steakhouse" cuisine, featuring dishes like dry-aged ribeye with gorgonzola butter and truffle fries. Macellaio has received rave reviews for its bold and inventive take on Italian cuisine.