For the past three years, Jimmy DiBartolo has called South Florida home. He opened South Florida Foods, known locally as DiBartolo’s Wholesale Food Warehouse, two years ago to serve as a catalyst for bringing traditional Italian ingredients to area restaurants and kitchens.
“We basically wholesale to stores, restaurants and institutions. We even deliver orders by the case or pallet. That’s what we do,” DiBartolo said. “I had a place in Staten Island for 27 years, and a place in New Jersey for nine years.”
But with harsh winters and long hours, DiBartolo decided to retire down in Florida with his wife, son and two daughters.
“I came down here not to work. It didn’t last six months. I fished and golfed for six months, and I still fish and golf, but not as much now,” DiBartolo said. “Our family grew up with holidays, and maybe 30 people around the table. Even now, my kids are all there for holidays, and we love to talk about the food.”
In a short time, DiBartolo found South Florida lacking in places to find high-quality, real Italian ingredients, even in restaurants. For many years, he has been working with very special tomatoes, and even has a photo of himself hanging in his office holding the unique vegetable while standing in an Italian farm.
“This is something that we did from Italy. It’s a certain type of tomato grown in Foggia and packed in Naples. We take the natural juice of the tomato, and we cook it at 600 degrees, and we put it back in the can. There’s no puree, it’s all natural,” he explained. “The true San Marzano tomatoes are grown in this little valley, only a six-mile circle, and it has to have the stamp like this,” as he points to the DOP on the label.
Translated to English, the DOP label means “protected designation of origin,” and those tomatoes are not easy to find, especially in South Florida. But for DiBartolo, to get authentic traditional Italian flavors, one needs real ingredients from Italy.
“I’ve seen people in kitchens with such passion. It’s unbelievable,” DiBartolo said. “But you still need somebody to get the best ingredients. My menu is strictly Italian labels, no off brands.”
Along with top-quality ingredients, DiBartolo likes to see traditional Italian recipes.
“I’d like to see people get away from your typical chicken or eggplant parmesan and go into more of the high-line fish dishes and fra diavolos,” he said.
It is this return to old-school Italian dishes that has become one of his personal goals. While building a reputation for carrying great ingredients, DiBartolo started getting unexpected requests from his wholesale business.
When hurricane season drove people to search for available food and water, he started to meet his neighbors face to face, as people from the local area began coming by asking if they could purchase items in smaller quantities. The requests inspired him to do something truly unique.
“We have this little local world that comes here. The neighborhood people were pulling up asking if they could buy tomatoes or sardines, or if they could buy pasta from Italy,” DiBartolo said.
So, he decided to set aside a space and open up the back of the warehouse as a cash-and-carry market for the neighborhood people and the families of his customers, who were coming by for something special. One such customer is Tom Schneider, food and beverage supervisor at Breakers West.
“Jimmy is amazing. He has real passion for food, and he has the best Italian food items in South Florida. He’s a generous man, too,” Schneider said. “It was phenomenal, fantastic food, so I kept coming back.”
South Florida Foods cares for its customers, offering regular wholesale delivery service to Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties. Orders can be placed online, by phone or e-mail. It is important to DiBartolo to provide quick service. “If you place an order before 9 a.m., we will deliver it the same day,” he said.
DiBartolo noted that he has customers as far as Sarasota and Orlando who regularly purchase food by the pallet for their companies.
DiBartolo’s South Florida Foods is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Watch for special upcoming holiday hours in December, when the facility will open on Saturdays.
The warehouse is located at 8140 Belvedere Road near Benoist Farms Road. To learn more about the products and services available, call (561) 814-2988 or visit www.dibartolofoods.com.