For 30 years, west Fort Worth has been home to two classic, old-fashioned “red sauce Italian” restaurants.
Mancuso's gets more attention. But on two recent visits, the much older Margie's Italian Kitchen showed it's just as good as ever and worth the trip out Camp Bowie Boulevard West.
Margie's is where Italian food began in Fort Worth. It was September 1953, 65 years ago, when war bride Margie Lozzi Walters and her family from Florence, Italy, opened an “Italian and American” restaurant on what was then the open highway west to California.
It advertised a dish World War II veterans knew well: “Italian pizza pie.”
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But because America wasn't long past a war against Italy, the restaurant was named the American Cafe & Grill.
It wasn't long before it became the Italian Gardens, and eventually, Margie's.
The ownership has changed, and so has the scenery on what is now Camp Bowie Boulevard West a mile west of Loop 820.
Some of the recipes have changed, too. But Margie's upheld its legacy on two recent visits for its old standby dishes: pizza and lasagna.
It's exceptional to find a stone-oven pizza with two toppings for $6.99, at least in a dinner restaurant with table service and a wine list.
But that was a Margie's special last weekend. Pizza pepperoni and jalapeños impressed with a dense, well-browned, crisp crust. This isn't soft, Neapolitan-style pizza; this is crust that holds up under your choice of 15 toppings.
Margie's also is known for lasagna and chicken spaghetti. The original lasagna recipe is now served at Mancuso's, but Margie's current rendition is thicker and meatier than in chain Italian restaurants.
“I guess nothing has changed much at Margie's,” owner Keith Kidwill said, “because nothing needs changing. Our goal is to do the same thing over and over again that has kept people coming back all these years.”
Kidwill bought the building 20 years ago and revived Margie's with the help of the late chef Paul Willis, a Fuzzy's co-founder.
“We get all these families now from new homes out here in places like Walsh,” Kidwill said.
“They come for the pizza and spaghetti. A lot of people come just because we're not like anywhere else.”
There's also a rib-eye steak with garlic and Italian seasoning. If you like the pan steaks at Kidwill's other restaurant, the M&M Steak House, try Margie's rib-eye or the filet medallions..
Much of the restaurant looks 65 years old. The back bar is probably original, Kidwill said, although he added the Seeburg jukebox with old rock, pop and country.
Billy's Oak Acres open on west side
Billy's Oak Acres BBQ is finally open, and that didn't stay a secret long.
The restaurant sold out of food the first few nights, and pitmaster Billy Woodrich now sells a lot of chicken-fried steak and chicken along with the barbecue.
The new location is a 55-year-old former nightclub and sports bar that was remodeled with rustic paneling to have a little of the character of Woodrich's now-closed Oak Acres location. (It still needs some windows to overcome the dark barroom days, but Woodrich said they're coming.)
Billy's serves brisket, ribs, pork, turkey and sausage daily for about $10.95-$13.95 per plate, or sandwiches for about $8-$9.
Chicken-fried steak and chicken are available Wednesday through Sunday. A smoked pork chop is available Wednesdays.
Desserts still include the banana pudding featured in Paula Deen Magazine, plus chocolate cake, pecan cake and buttermilk pie.
Arlington says, 'Hello, Halal Guys'
A New York-based Halal Guys restaurant is open in Champions Park, and Social House is expected next.
The Halal Guys restaurants are known for chicken-and-rice plates and a much-loved white sauce, but the menu ranges from rolled sandwiches to platters with sides such as hummus, falafel and baba ghanoush.
Bud Kennedy, 817-390-7538; @EatsBeat.