What’s in a name?

Authentic recipes at Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen

By Paula Johnson

So you go to a place called Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen, and all seems kosher (or whatever the Italian equivalent of that is). The music is right out of “Big Night,” the placemats boast facts encouraging a visit to Italy, the menu highlights all the things you would expect—spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna, cannoli and Chianti by the glass. It’s a casual place, and the patrons seem comfortable and familiar to the staff. Everyone is eating, drinking, laughing, talking and there’s this guy with an accent greeting all the tables, making sure that everything is “va bene.” Except his name is Mo—not Marizio, and he’s from Kosovo, not Palermo. So what gives?


What gives is that the owner of Jimmy’s is Mo Jusufi, a former car salesman who happened into being a restaurant owner. He’s been the owner for almost a year and a half, maintaining a steadfast adherence to the previous owner’s successful business approach and recipes. All the sauces are the same, all made in the kitchen daily, as is the pizza dough, house dressing and garlic rolls, which come with all dinners. What worked before is still working, and very well under Mo Jusufi’s attentive eye. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I found this out on our recent first visit to Jimmy’s.

Located on a busy corner on Woodman Drive in Kettering, Jimmy’s has ample parking and a small outdoor patio for summer dining (look for music on the patio on the weekends once summer starts). Inside, there are two small dining rooms where we were encouraged to take a seat. Our server, Jetmer (Mo’s nephew we discovered) let us know the daily specials, as we munched appetizers—wings and fried zucchini. The wings, mild or hot, were a good value at $6.99 for 10. Meaty and slightly spicy with an Italian spice blend and parmesan cheese, PIP and I both agreed we would order them again. The zucchini was of the standard breaded ilk, but the dish’s standout was the marinara dipping sauce. Chunky and zesty, we spooned it up and commented that it would be great on pasta.

Trio treat

I did decide on pasta, but I wanted to try Jetmer’s recommendation, the Seafood Trio. At $21.99, it’s at the upper range of Jimmy’s entree prices. (You can get simple plate of spaghetti with either olive oil and garlic or marinara for only $8.99, adding on sausage, meatball or meat sauce at $11.99.) I began with a salad with a good house Italian vinaigrette, the only house made dressing. The heaping mound of pasta arrived in a large bowl topped with big pieces of scallops and shrimp, covered with chopped clams in a garlic wine sauce. What impressed me was the size of the seafood and how darned good it was. The scallops and shrimp were both fresh-tasting and cooked exactly right, and the wine sauce had ample garlic and chiffonade strips of fresh basil. I really hadn’t expected fresh seafood, fresh herbs and a homemade sauce, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. And it was such an impressive looking dish, piled high and flanked with the homemade garlic rolls, that the table next to ours immediately ordered it after mine was served.

Super Sicilian

PIP took a chance and ordered pizza when he saw there was a Sicilian-style pizza available. PIP has a fondness for a thick crust pizza, necessary to support the heft of his topping choices. (Most of what passes for pizza around here is that regrettable thin stuff.) He ordered his standard—double sauce, double cheese, pepperoni and anchovies. Kudos to Jetmer for not batting an eye at that combination. It arrived with square cuts in a large rectangle with a thick and toasty crusted bottom, sweet zesty sauce and lots of cheese and toppings. Completely delicious and satisfying PIP’s craving, it was a pizza that reminded him of a favorite boyhood place in northeast Ohio. The total for this pizza extravaganza was $16.99, and there was enough to take the extra home.

As I dug into a cannoli ($4.99), Mo came by to ask how our meal was. I took the opportunity to ask him about his story and about foods from his native Kosovo. “Oh, the cabbage rolls!” he sighed. “They are so good—they take all day to make!” Would they ever show up on Jimmy’s menu I asked? Maybe a special Kosovo night? He laughed, “Maybe sometime in the future.”

I certainly hope so. I am sure that whatever native dishes Mo’s kitchen would put out would be as well done as the Italian fare they are putting out now.

Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen confirmed all the good things I had heard before I went. It’s a seriously good value in terms of price, but more importantly, what you get for that price: freshly prepared food, made in house daily. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate a place that takes this approach, in stark contrast to the myriad restaurants that don’t. So Dayton diners here’s where I urge you to do like your mom would tell you: make good dining choices. And Mo’s Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen is one of them. Buon appetito!

Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen is located at 3002 Woodman Dr. in Kettering. For more information, please call 937.293.9133 or visit jikitchen.com.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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