Walking into Jimmy’s Place and being delighted by the aroma of homemade meat- and cheese-raviolis, and other homemade dishes, is a familiar experience for many locals.

The Forest Park restaurant, at 7411 Madison St., is known for its Chicago-style Italian food and the memories it has created for many over the years. 

James Jodoin, better known as Jimmy, has operated his Italian restaurant for almost 13 years, during which it has served as one of Forest Park’s go-to spots for good food and good times.

Like many other small businesses, locally and nationwide, Jodoin admits that his restaurant has struggled, because of the poor economy. However, he and his staff have come up with some innovative things to keep their customers coming back.

“We got Groupon to help bring us people into the restaurant and that worked out awesome,” Jodoin said. “In comparison to other business in the community, I’m comfortable with our progress. I think we do an extremely good job keeping our customers coming back.”

He said that, lately, business has been great. And he’s extremely thankful. But it wasn’t just Groupon that helped bring customers into the restaurant on the night of July 13. It was actually a film crew working for Food Network. They were shooting an episode of the reality show The Next Food Network Star.

Presently, little can be revealed about the taping because it has not aired yet.

“That evening, business was really good,” Jodoin said. “We had way more customers than usual. I am extremely proud.”

Jodoin said that, normally, he’d bring in about 75 customers during an average evening. However, that specific evening, from 6:30 p.m. until closing time, Jodoin said “the restaurant was packed to capacity.”

The attention Jodoin receives, from locals and out-of-towners (like Food Network), is a testament to the food he makes. He runs an un-pretentious restaurant where customers can skip the frills and focus on the fare.

“I’m not some world-class chef,” said Jodoin, modestly. “We had some recipes in the family that were passed down from my wife’s mother and grandmother. We just took that and improved a little here and there and it has evolved into what it is today.”

The restaurant offers a full bar and its homemade pizza, Italian beef, and pastas, are especially popular menu items. Jimmy said the restaurant definitely has its specialties.

“We’re really famous for our Chicken Vesuvio,” Jodoin said. “We home cook our meat- and cheese-raviolis daily. Our customers love them.”

The food is king at Jimmy’s, and it’s what keeps customers coming back. But, on July 13, they also came to be part of something bigger: to claim a spot in the restaurant’s voluminous storybook.