In 1904 my great grandparents, Carlo “Papa” Campisi and Antonia, immigrated from Sicily to New Orleans. They settled in Dallas thanks to a telegram from a cousin who told of a grocery store for sale for $800. Soon after, Papa was in the grocery business at the corner of Hall Street and Central Expressway (formerly the Central tracks.) In an apartment above the grocery store, my great grandparents had six kids (four girls and two boys), and each helped by working and translating in the store.
In 1946, with the end of World War II, Papa purchased a bar at the corner of Knox and McKinney called the Idle Hour. It was equipped with a small kitchen in the back. A cousin visiting from New York suggested they serve “Pizza Pies” which were so popular in New York. So, Papa gathered his family in the kitchen to create Dallas’ first pizza; as well as, Texas’ first pizzeria. My grandfather, Joe and great uncle, Sam, were always on hand promoting their pizza pies to all of their patrons.
In 1950 we moved to our Mockingbird Lane location to take over the previous “Egyptian Lounge”. At the time there was not enough money to buy a new sign, so the original Egyptian sign was changed by removing lounge and adding restaurant. After Papa and Sam passed away and the girls were busy raising families, my grandfather, Joe, continued with the entrepreneurial spirit of his father by growing the family business.
In 1971, Campisi’s was granted one of the first liquor licenses in the state of Texas since prohibition. Joe continued to serve his friends, politicians and sports figures and became a local celebrity himself.
My uncle, Corky, ran the Mockingbird location through the next four decades and continued to train the next generation. In 1993 I opened the first satellite store at Coit and Campbell. Since then I have expanded Campisi’s to multiple locations throughout the Dallas metroplex.
The “American Dream” that brought the Campisi family to America has become a reality. Thanks to you, our loyal patrons, numerous local and national awards have been bestowed upon us over the years. The awards include Best Pizza, Best Italian, and Bon Appetite Magazine’s One of the Best Pizzerias in America. We feel honored to be the oldest Italian restaurant in Texas. And, with the third and fourth generation of Campisi children now carrying on the restaurant traditions, we are proud to enter our eighth decade of service to the metroplex.
My grandfather Joe, who raised me as his son, taught me a lesson in business. He said, “Baby, Campisi’s was built on hand shakes and hello’s”, and that’s what we’re still doing today.
David Campisi and Family