In a small bar kitchen on Knox street in 1946, “Papa” Carlo Campisi served up the first slices of pizza in Dallas. Seventy years later, his great-grandson, David, is leading the Italian empire into a new era.
Campisi’s now has 10 locations in addition to the flagship Papa opened on Mockingbird Lane in 1950. The newest locale opened April 1 in Plano with a modern interior inspired by the family-style dining patrons have come to know and love about this “red sauce, homemade, handmade company.”
“We want to be an iconic brand that advances in ways that the guests don’t see,” David said. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Sure we’ve restored this and that, upgraded wine lines, and all of that, but we are about following the palette of the guests, which is why we have had the same recipes for 70 years.”
Bennett Glazer, CEO of Glazer’s, Inc., can attest to Campisi’s consistency. His family has been supplying the restaurants with alcohol since they opened. Glazer remembers David’s grandpa, Joe, who took over for Papa Carlo, treating him like a son when he would come in with his dad to talk business.
“David has taken Campisi’s to another level,” Glazer said. “He doesn’t cut corners and he is always going to deliver a good product.”
David recently started expanding outside North Texas by signing a lease in Lubbock, south of the Texas Tech University campus. David, a 1992 grad, says bringing the brand to a city that treats friends like family was an easy decision.
“When I signed the lease to the Lubbock Campisi’s, it was like signing a dream away,” he said. “We are going to use Tech as an incubator and do a lot of mentorship. And by mentoring these students, it gives me a funnel of awesome people who can work for me.”
Wherever the brand grows, David is at home at the original Campisi’s, surrounded by waiters he’s known for years and patrons who greet one another like old friends.
“This location on Mockingbird is like going back to your grandparents’ house,” David said. “This place. These walls. To us, this is our Vatican. This is our castle.”
It’s also a second home to his kids, Joe II, 5, and Mila, 3. David says both the staff and the customers enjoy it when they’re around.
“The kiddos love to ‘go to work’ with their daddy,” David said. “Joe likes to take other children in the kitchen to make personal pizzas and Mila likes to help with the phones and registers.”
David welcomes the idea of his kids one day taking over, but says there is going to be no pressure from him and his wife for them to do so. After all, there are aunts, uncles, and “too many cousins to name” currently involved in the operation.
“We want our children to follow their passion and dreams, whatever they may be,” David said. “We certainly won’t be disappointed if another generation of Campisis takes over.”
Grandpa Joe always told his family that people whose last name ends in a vowel were held to a different standard, David said. That’s something the family has taken to heart. David takes lessons he’s learned and looks forward.
“Who knows what kind of legs our company has but we keep testing the times,” David said. “We keep filling up the bus with good people, and I think we have the ability to go anywhere.”