When Brookline native James “Jimmy” Hamelburg was given the opportunity to open a restaurant in his childhood neighborhood –in the very space of the long-term Brookline institution B&D Deli on Beacon Street—he said it was impossible for him to turn down.
Hamelburg had been in the process of closing down his South End mom and pop Italian restaurant Joe V’s when opportunity knocked in December 2009. He soon began talking to the building’s landlord about his restaurant idea.
“It kind of fell out of a tree and landed on my feet,” Hambelburg said. “People said, ‘You can’t open a place like this in Brookline,’ and I said ‘You watch.”
It’s no doubt Hamelburg stood true to his word. After a year and a half of planning, Jimmy’s Bar & Oven officially opened its doors on June 29 2011, and the casual Italian restaurant has been buzzing ever since. “So far people are addicted,” Hamelburg said.
What Hamelburg described as “one big box,” when they took over the former B&D location, has gone through a complete renovation.
He said the restaurant’s trendy atmosphere was inspired by a lower-Manhattan hotspot Barbutto, including its rubber floors, chalkboard walls with handwritten specials, and garage doors in front.
But Hamelburg said they built the place mainly around the giant WoodStone Oven in the kitchen, which he claims is definitely a focal point of the room.
“Will you look at the flame in the back?” Hamelburg exclaims. “It’s the coolest thing ever!”
He also notes the loud, upbeat music the restaurant plays at night, which he said adds to the general vibe that the customers have been enjoying so far.
“Lots of places here are very vanilla, and I think that’s why people feel very comfortable here.”
While Hamelburg prides the friendly, diverse staff and unique atmosphere of his restaurant, it’s no doubt the food is drawing the crowds in as well.
“The menu is really simple and uncomplicated. The portions are generous and everything is homemade, with all fresh ingredients. It’s a real neighborhood restaurant.”
The menu offers everything from Fried Pickles and Boneless Wings (served with roasted red and yellow peppers in garlic oil) to the Italian classic dishes like Gnocchi, Shrimp Scampi and Jimmy’s favorite: the Chicken Parmesan.
Not to mention the full bar and original drink menu, including White Sangria with fresh fruit and St. Germain, the Pomegranate Margarita and a variety of beer including two of Hamelburg’s personal favorites: Tecate and He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale.
But so far the customer favorite has undeniably been the pizzas –including Margherita, Baby Arugula, and even Chicken Parmesan—all prepared with fresh pizza dough. The current special, which has been quite popular, is the Meat Lover’s pizza, fully packed with bacon, sausage, meatballs and pepperoni.
While Jimmy’s is currently serving dinner only, the restaurant will soon open up for lunch and brunch as well. Hamelburg has plans to expand the menu and is continuing to create new recipes with help from a close friend from NY.
Overall, Hamelburg said he’s excited to bring an original restaurant to the area. “It adds some mad flavor to Brookline,” Hambelburg said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
With the passing of both of his parents the past few years, being back in Brookline holds a special spot for him, as he recalls attending grammar school across the street at Driscoll and Sunday night dinners with his family at Golden Temple.
“My parents would be very happy we’re in the old B&D Deli space. I’m sure they’re smiling right now.”
And Hemelburg can’t stop smiling himself. “This is my last stop. I’ve got a long lease and I’m done here. I’m moving back to Brookline to live happily ever after.”
Jimmy’s is currently open for dinner only, but will soon open for lunch and brunch as well. Current hours are Sunday-Wednesday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.