Tony DeMaria's Bar-B-Que

Tony DeMaria’s Bar-B-Que has graced Elm Avenue with its unique style of barbecue for many decades. The restaurant is a family-owned business with a rich history that began with the immigration of the DiMaria family in the late nineteenth century.

In 1888, a family of citrus farmers from Poggioreale, Sicily by the name DiMaria arrived in New Orleans. Large numbers of Sicilians immigrated to the US in the 1880s, when economic hardships were not lessened as promised by the unification of Italy. The DiMaria family was among this wave of immigration, and they sailed for New Orleans along with many other Sicilians. Antonino and Vita, the father and mother of this family, would move to Waco in 1902, and in the following years their sons Antonino and Gaspare, now going by the Americanized names Joe and Jasper, would also move to Waco with their young families. Jasper opened a grocery and meat market on 1219 Elm Avenue in 1919, where at some point he began smoking meats. Jasper’s smoked meats became so popular that he moved the business to 105 Clifton, founding Jasper’s Bar-B-Que. Joe’s son Tony took over the old meat market location, and in 1936 he moved the store to 1223 Elm Ave., where Tony’s Market and Grocery served “Hot Bar-B-Q” with pork and beans, cooked in a brick pit outside. Tony and his son Tony Jr. both served in World War II, and when they returned in 1946, Tony Jr. opened Tony DeMaria Jr.’s Food Market on 1317 Elm Ave. Sometime in the previous decades the two halves of the DiMaria family had begun using different spellings—Jasper’s side using DiMaria, and Tony Sr.’s side using DeMaria—but both sides passed down family recipes and cemented the popularity of Italian-imbued barbecue in the Waco community.

Tony DeMaria Jr.’s Food Market served barbecue from its inception, but the construction of I-35 is what propelled it to become a full-time restaurant. Their barbecue had always been served to-go, but when large crews of I-35 construction workers began frequenting the store, the need for seating became pressing. In 1995, Geoff DeMaria, Tony Jr.’s son, moved the business to 1000 Elm Ave., rebranded as Tony DeMaria’s Bar-B-Que, with no more groceries on the shelves. The DeMaria/DiMaria family has cooked meat in the same way since it was first prepared at Jasper’s grocery, and Tony DeMaria’s continues that tradition. The meat is first boiled in beef broth, similar to bollito di manzo, and then smoked, lending an Italian spin to a Central Texas favorite—smoked brisket. Tony DeMaria’s even uses a brick pit much like the one used at Tony’s Market and Grocery. The brisket is then served with white bread and dipped in their traditional gravy, which resembles an au jus sauce.

The restaurant remains in the hands of the DeMaria family—Geoff sold it to his son Blake when he retired in 2021—and is still a popular Waco eatery, just a few blocks away from Jasper’s Bar-B-Que. Tony DeMaria’s and Jasper’s together preserve a unique family legacy of barbecue that has been served in Waco for over a century.



This is the current location, on 1000 Elm Avenue.