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DeVito's Family

DeVito’s is a name in the Harrison area that has become synonymous with great food and good times. Whether it’s fine Italian cuisine or fishing for trout, it’s all at DeVito’s. This is the story of how a forth generation Italian cook turned the DeVito’s name into an Ozark tradition.

A Wisconsin native, Jim DeVito grew up in Illinois before joining the Army during WWII and serving in Germany. After the war, Jim was transferred to Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. It was there that he met his wife, Mary Alice Raney. A native of Harrison, Mary Alice was a student at the Baptist Hospital. The two of them were married in 1947.

In Jim’s final post with the Army he served as
professor of Military Science and Commandant of Cadets at Campion Jesuit Academy in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. In 1970, with 29 years in service, Jim retired from the Army. He was only 47 at the time, but says that it was not considered an early retirement – as he puts it “It’s not the age, it’s the miles.” In fact, Jim served in the Army nine years longer than he had to in order to build up his pension.

Upon retiring, Jim and Mary Alice moved back to her home town of Harrison. The couple had considered other places but chose Harrison for the clean air and beautiful vistas. Jim says, “I came through here during World War II and fell in love with this country and throughout my whole tour of duty traveling all over the world, I never found anything to compare to Northwest Arkansas.”

To keep active in their retirement, the DeVitos had planned on dealing in antiques. Then, in June of 1970, the very month Jim retired, his father-in-law gave the couple a trout farm to operate. Working together with his brother-in-law, Gene Raney, DeVito built the Bear Creek Springs Trout Farm into a thriving business and still managed to open an antiques shop. Jim adds that since the couple still had three small boys to raise, the added income was a strong motivation to succeed in their ventures.

Retirement also provided more time for DeVito to spend on a real passion of his – cooking. Coming from a long line of Italian cooks, Jim came by cooking naturally. He was the oldest in a family of 11 children and says, “ We all had to learn to cook.” Over the years he mulled the idea of operating an Italian restaurant but had never acted on it. Now, with the success of the trout farm it was something he thought more about.

By this time, the DeVito’s sons, James, Steve, and Chris and Joe had all finished college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and came home to partner with their parents.

Jim DeVito’s sons all share their father’s love of cooking and after much prodding from his boys, Jim finally opened the doors of DeVito’s Restaurant in November of 1986. With this fifth generation of Italian cooks at the helm making everything from scratch, DeVito’s was an instant hit. The men do all the cooking and they make their own homemade breads, sauces, pasta, and desserts. The restaurant was such a success that just two years later oldest son, James, opened a second location in Eureka Springs.

Over the years DeVito’s Restaurant has truly become an Ozark dining institution. After being destroyed by fire in 2000, the restaurant was rebuilt and opened back up the following year to the delight of their fans everywhere. The DeVitos have stacks of positive comments from satisfied dining guests from all over the United States.

Today, the restaurant is owned and operated by brothers Steve, Chris and Joe. You’ll usually find two of them in the kitchens and one out front with the servers.