Why do they call it Campisis’s Egyptian Restaurant, is it because they’re in the mob? A.M.
So first of all, apparently whenever you’re writing about people you know personally, you’re supposed to say so. I first met the Campisi family when I started preschool in Dallas at age 3 and met the twins. But I’m not close to them; almost all kids that grew up in East Dallas in the 90’s knew the Campisi’s, or their extended family of the Fry’s, Culter’s, Dome’s, etc. Now let’s get to the strangely named “Egyptian” Restaurant and its Italian food, wonderful pizza…and the alleged mob connections.
The Egyptian Restaurant Obviously would specalize in this delicious pizza
The Egyptian part of the name dates back the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The Campisi family had run a grocery in Dallas since the turn of the century, but had only started to make pizzas (very good pizza) after World War II. In a few short years they had become somewhat successful, out growing their location on McKinney Ave. and moving to the current location on Mockingbird. Before Campisi’s moved in, the space had been known as the Egyptian Lounge, a nightclub and bar. Campisi’s spent most of their money on the move and renovations to the interior and kitchen, leaving little for a new sign for the restaurant. So they took the Egyptian Lounge Sign that was out front, and paid what little money they had to remove the lounge part and add the restaurant part. Since then the name has stuck…going on 60 years.
What has also stuck is the reputation that the Campisi’s are involved in and the restaurant is run by the Mafia in Dallas, or at least associated with the mob. Why? Well, the Campisi’s are an Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American family that deals in (up until recently) what is an all cash business. Doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots or make the accusations. Of course what people who make these accusations neglect to realize is that Dallas has never really been a big mafia town. Our crime, the organized kind, is usually gunslinging-murdering Benny Binion gamblers, underhanded Dad Joiner oil wildcatters, or crooked Danny Faulkner land developers.
What’s usually the biggest evidence pointed out for the mafia connection is the fact that Jack Ruby visited Campisi’s and allegedly ate with Joe Campisi the night before Ruby shot Oswald. Or as the conspiracy theorist go, Ruby was a solider in the mob and got his marching orders to kill Oswald from Joe, a local mafia member. The problem here beyond the fact that mob in Dallas wasn’t really big, was that Ruby was never really considered a member of the mob. He was a wannabe, all the press corp members and vice cops of the era said as much. A.C. Green a columnist and former metro writer for the Dallas Times Hearld who knew Ruby, called him, “…an undistinguished man” who ran “…an undistinguished club” that “didn’t even have elementary class.” And because Dallas lacked a strong organized estblishament, there wasn’t much need for a pleadingly crummy nightclub manager. For his part, Joe Campisi said he hardly knew Ruby, and told the Warren Commission that Ruby was “…a crazy S.O.B.”
What’s more realistic is that the Campisi’s had interaction with people who were involved in organized crime as a fact of running a restaurant. Running a restaurant in the 50’s and 60’s you had to deal with them. Consider Thorton Mellon’s hidden cost of development lecture. It made sense for Joe to have good relations with liquor suppliers, labor, town officials, and other suppliers. Some of whom were likely involved in organized crime. Plus Campisi’s likely had a few organized crime members that ate at the restaurant, it wasn’t like the cabana in the Goodfellas, but Tom Landry also ate there, and he’s about as straight laced as they come. The relationship has been played up recently mainly for publicity now that one Campisi became a Playboy Playmate and another got a short lived TV show. But really, it’s not as glamorous not as interesting as people make it out to be.