Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, May 8, 2003
Margie’s Original
Italian Kitchen
Homemade lasagna $10.95
Grilled shrimp fra diavolo $15.95
Plain cheese pizza $9.95
Margie’s original tiramisu $3.95
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Old Country

Margie’s may not be much to look at, but it’s an Italian cuisine haven.

By KEN SHIMAMOTO

Margie’s Original Italian Kitchen

9805 Camp Bowie West, FW. 817-244-4301. Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. All major credit cards accepted.

n my ongoing search for the platonic ideal of a plate of pasta, I’ve taken many a wrong turn. But I recently got a tip from my local Italian cuisine authority, Il Siciliano, who is of Italian descent and from Noo Yawk (although he went to high school in, uh, Richardson). He said that I needed to check out Margie’s Original Italian Kitchen, so I took him at his word and headed for the outer reaches of Fort Worth. (He also warned me not to go for lunch; they’re open for dinner only.)

Located on the far western extremity of Highway 80, which goes by the moniker Camp Bowie West these days, Margie’s has been in business for half a century now — and looks it, at least from the outside. The restaurant’s exterior is like some Last Picture Show backdrop — the pitted sign, the big chunks of paint peeling off the building, a veneer of superfunk that makes Fred’s Café look like Angeluna. This must be the only dining establishment in Fort Worth that still advertises “Indoor Plumbing.”

The original Margie isn’t around anymore; she passed away about five years ago. Her children ran the place for a year or so after that, before selling to current owner Keith Kidwell. He and chef Paul Willis wisely decided to keep Margie’s original recipes.

Once inside, the surroundings are more pleasant than the view from outside might lead you to believe. When my guest and I walked in, the spacious front room was bathed in early evening rays from the setting sun, and there were a few patrons at the bar. Second-class citizens will be delighted to learn of the smoking section, in another large room farther back in the restaurant.

The menu encompasses all the traditional Italian specialties: pasta, chicken, veal. There’s also beef — a 16-ounce garlic-and-herb ribeye and tenderloin medallions, both served with fettuccine alfredo — but sampling some would have taken me and my mate beyond the limits of my expense ceiling, so I’ll have to wait until I hit the lottery to sample those dishes. Likewise, I’ll have to wait for another time to taste Margie’s tiramisu, which is rumored to be excellent. (One peculiar thing about the menu: On offer were “New York-style grinders.” Now, New Yorkers call long sandwiches “heroes”; “grinders” are what New Englanders call those delicacies. Go figure.)

My guest, a refugee from the Cult of Atkins, opted for the house-specialty lasagna. Margie’s version was rich with cheeses provolone, romano, and ricotta, complemented by a hearty meat sauce that was redolent of sweet basil. Italian comfort food, to be sure.

I’m a big fan of hot-and-spicy grub. My motto is: If my eyes start to sweat after the first bite, then I’m on the right track. At Margie’s, my eye was caught by the grilled shrimp fra diavolo. I once had a recipe for this dish that relied heavily on an East Coast bud’s homemade habanera sauce. I tried out this specialty on my then-girlfriend a couple of years ago, who had grown up eating spicy Indian dishes. Her verdict: “This is more like an endurance contest than a meal.”

She might have looked more favorably on Margie’s fra diavolo, which made for a good meal but was a little more subtle in supplying heat. The spicy marinara sauce, served over linguini, contained thin slices of red and bell peppers and onions, along with the requisite tomatoes and mushrooms. Unlike other fra diavolos I’ve sampled, in which the shrimp was cooked right in the sauce, Margie’s shrimp came atop the dish on a skewer — a half dozen of those little bad boys, soaked in butter and dusted in garlic. The combination of flavors was agreeable, and when the burn from the peppers kicked in after a few seconds, it wasn’t excruciating enough to require an immediate infusion of water. Overall, a great Italian cuisine experience (if you’re from Texas).

My guest and I then agreed to split a pizza and were pleasantly surprised to discover that Margie’s has an authentic Italian brick oven on the premises. The crust of our pie was crispy on the bottom, doughy in the middle, and the spices and cheese were everything a pizza aficionado could hope for. Margie’s offers a choice of red or white sauces and the usual array of toppings, including grilled chicken, spinach, feta cheese, and black or green olives.

The house salad was serviceable, chocked full as it was of little bits of diced tomato that reminded me of fugitives from someone’s pico de gallo and a piquant house vinaigrette dressing. Only the garnish of bacon bits seemed a little bizarre. Little loaves of garlic bread were available for 95¢ a throw. My guest and I had two, and we were charged just a buck and a half.

For those who can’t take the time to venture out to the wild West Side, home delivery is available via Entrées on Trays.


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