Jimmy Rodriguez has had more lives than a cat. I first met Jimmy over twenty years ago when he had the infamous Jimmy’s cafe in the Bronx. That first time I remember taking rookie Derek Jeter with me along with “Dr. K” Doc Gooden. Since then, he has had great spots all over the Tri-State Area. His latest location is in the theater district in Manhattan at 38th Street and 7th Avenue. It’s called Jimmy’s NYC.
I caught up with Jimmy at the beautiful new location and naturally had some questions for him. Obviously, that was after filling my stomach with the best Latin food in the city, especially the empanadas.
Ray Negron: You have the Jimmy’s Café in the Bronx by Yankee Stadium and all the players went there. They all followed Jimmy. You were the first guy to have Fidel Castro at your restaurant. How did you make that happen at that time?
Jimmy Rodriguez: It was 1995 and (Rudolph) Giuliani snubbed him from all the events in New York. And Congressman (Jose) Serrano came to us and said, can he host an event for Fidel. Sure enough, he accepted the invitation and came up to Jimmy’s Café. I had a baseball hat signed by him. Still to this day, I see it and say “Wow.” I am probably the only person with a Yankee hat signed by Fidel Castro.
RN: When you heard of his passing, what came to mind?
JR: Not being a politician or knowing the politics in Cuba, I got to meet a world leader that came to the Bronx and broke bread with Hispanics. That alone is historic and momentous.
RN: Jimmy, you’re an icon from a standpoint what you have done all these years. How do you feel that all these Latinos look up to you?
JR: I wake up every day trying to be a bigger inspiration than I was yesterday and try to open up more doors for young men and women. Not just Hispanic, but show diversity. To show that you believe it, you can achieve it.
RN: You’re the Reggie Jackson of what you do. How do you deal with the jealousy of being Jimmy?
JR: I never look upon jealousy. There’s a purpose for you to be in this world and you have to shine every day. You have to be the best of what you do every day and do it with love and passion. And you love what you do, you just shine and continue to shine every day.
RN: You could have done anything with your life. Why the restaurant business?
JR: Growing up as a kid, I played with Bobby Bonilla and Devon White in Double-A from little league. The only player from the Bronx that made it was Ed Kranepool. I decided to work, because at the time I didn’t believe I could be a big league ball player. I quit and I love what I do. It’s not a regret, however if you love what you do don’t give up. Make it happen.
RN: You had an exciting life. Will there be a Jimmy movie?
JR: Everyday there’s a Jimmy movie. You live it. You love it. And all those who come into our circles, experience being part of Jimmy’s movie. One day it will be on TV.
RN: And who will play Jimmy? Would it be Jimmy Smits?
JR: You never know. It could be Jimmy Smits. He’s a good guy. You know what, let me ask him. (Laughs)
Give yourself a treat, especially if you want to impress a young lady or man. Go to Jimmy’s NYC at 156 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018, before the show.
Ray Negron can be heard every Sunday on 1050 AM ESPN Deportes from 11 am to 1 pm and also can be read on Newsmax.