The Campisi family’s restaurants have been a tradition in Dallas since 1946. Over six decades, the enterprise has grown from the flagship eatery on Mockingbird Lane to seven storefronts in the Dallas area. Last year, fourth-generation restaurateur David Campisi brought the family business to Fort Worth. The Camp Bowie Boulevard location is full of framed photos of family matriarchs and patriarchs dressed in their classic 1950s best, along with copies of the original menus and wine lists.
For starters, the Italian-style crab claws were just about perfect. The shell on the black-tipped claw had been separated from the meat, so there was no fussing with inconvenient implements of destruction. The crustacean came swimming in a pot of delicious garlic butter, which was also useful as a dipping sauce for the crusty complimentary bread. A half order (about half a pound) was plenty for a table of three.
The calamari, also available as a half-order, was a flawless combination of chewy and crunchy. Italian breading and Italian seasoning meant that the crust on the squid was a little less tempura-like than at some other places. The subtly herbed batter clung to the meat like skin. Sadly, the accompanying marinara sauce was unpleasantly acidic.
The best way to do justice to the sprawling menu seemed to be the combo plate, which hit all the highlights: ravioli, lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs. Unfortunately, the meatballs were so oppressively flavored with a caraway-heavy herb seasoning that they were inedible, and the decent spaghetti, passable lasagna, and the tasty, firm, and creamy ravioli featured the same acidic tomato sauce that appeared in the appetizer.
The chicken parmesan was a much better choice. Somehow the astringent marinara was calmed by the fried Italian breadcrumb coating and the gooey blanket of mozzarella cheese. The parm was moist on the inside and crispy outside, which is no small feat. Both entrées came with a small and frankly underwhelming dinner salad: iceberg lettuce, a couple of olives, and some green onions.
Campisi’s claims that great-grandfather Carlo brought the pizza pie to Dallas in the mid-1940s. It could be true: Pizza Hut didn’t start marketing the stuff until about a decade later. Campisi’s pizza shtick is that the crust is in the shape of an oval, to fit the oval serving plates. The thinnish crust –– definitely not Chicago-style thick but not New York thin either –– was crispy at the edges but remained slightly gooey in the middle, courtesy mainly of the generous layers of sauce and cheese. Diners who appreciate the taste of wood-fired crust will love this. Toppings include all the standards plus salami, anchovies, fresh basil, broccoli, and feta or ricotta cheeses.
One seemingly insignificant item order on a whim turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire meal. The Greek salad was a glorious mix of various chopped greens, tomatoes, capers, feta cheese, and black and green olives minced muffuletta-style, all covered in a mouthwatering herbed vinaigrette dressing. It was odd to find a Greek salad on a menu clearly labeled “Italian Salads,” but in this case, odd was good.
Though the desserts are not homemade, the chocolate cheesecake was almost as good as anything Nonna might whip up. The New York-style delicacy was rich, creamy, and not overly sweet.
Campisi’s is interesting as much for the spectacular crab in butter sauce as for local history. David Campisi’s grandpa Joe had some fascinating associates, including Jack Ruby, who reportedly dined at the Mockingbird Lane location the night before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Campisi testified before the Warren Commission that, to his surprise, Ruby called the restaurateur from the Dallas County jail to ask him to visit. No record exists about whether Ruby asked Campisi to bring along some pizza.
6150 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. 817-916-4561. 11am-10pm daily. All major credit cards accepted.
Italian-style crab claws (half order).. $11.99
Calamari – half order………………………. $6.95
Lunch combo plate ……………………… $10.95
Chicken parmesagna …………………….. $9.95
Greek salad …………………………………. $9.95
Individual pizza …………………………….. $9.95
Chocolate cheesecake ………………….. $4.95
Campisi’s is by far and away the best and best priced Italian food in the metroplex. I have never found the sauce anything but delightful with authentic flavors, although it varies slightly in different locations (acidic?–nonsense!) I personally am not a “meatball” expert but Campisi’s are tasty The wine list is good the cocktails well prepared and the portions are way beyond generous It says a lot that when other local Italian places close-Campisi’s thrives! Viva Campisis! Thank you for coming to FW so that we don’t have to drive to Dallas BTW!
Don’t malign their traditional dense and filling little dinner salad which comes with the meal at no extra cost. The olive oil and vinegar dressing is simple and old world, kind of like your French or Italian grandmother used to make by hand-a simple and satisfying tradition.
Your restaurant critic seems to be “mailing it in”.
I’m wondering how the restaurant critic would ‘mail it in’ by going to the restaurant, sampling a wide variety of dishes, including staple fare for Italian, concisely describing the experience, acknowledging the good, the bad and the acidic, while still making me salivate.
You might actually “sample ” the restaurant critic’s “body of work” before you jump all over me! Other readers have sensed something “amiss” in the gushing praise of some overpriced and perpetually over rated restaurants: see reviews for “the Pour House” “Sera” “Little Lilly’s” and “Avondale Station”. Did the reviewer actually even TRY these places? I wonder. The tip off for Campisi’s is that no one just talks about the” crab claws” who really tries other things on the menu–“crab claws” are fine but it is kind of a lazy “talking point” for someone who is just “mailing it in”…
Little Lilly’s and Sera are two of the best restaurants in this city. I also happen to know that Laurie is hard-working and thorough. And not all of those reviews were written by her.
Sera is realistically not one of the best restaurants in the city yet, but it could be if they make some changes. I stand by my criticism,and others have similar views about charging for every little thing including bread, spotty service, expensive appetizers, limited menu etc. The CONSTANT promotion of “little Lilly’s” (seemingly at the expense of other Asian restaurants) has us baffled. Laurie already stated that she did not go to Avondale station, where a FWW reader, on the strength of the FWW review found the food cold to luke warm. The Pour house was criticized by another commenter for charging a cover charge even if you came there just to eat. Don’t shoot the messenger man! I enjoy most of the reviews here. I just don’t agree with everything. OK?
I hope I wasn’t coming off as being angry at you, I was just trying to address the “mailing it in” comment that I felt was unjustified. Of course you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m very grateful that you care enough to comment.
Chow Baby and Ms James– I am laughing to myself because everyone enjoys a good FOOD FIGHT now and again–even if it is the sterile in print variety over restaurant reviews. I enjoy your columns. FW and Tarrant County are growing up with several competitive dining venues! We’ll wave the white napkin until you guys start the process of determining the best of…for 2014!
I’m just jealous of the attention Laurie’s story is getting. I haven’t had this much action on one of my stories since I panned In ‘n’ Out.
I ordered the eggplant parm at Campizis about six months ago. It looked like an item from a school cafeteria and was in edible. Their pizza is better.
Please order your pizza to go. The place is packed on the weekends and I like to sit down when I order the delicious Eggplant Parmesan.
I did not have the pleasure of going to Avondale Station – Ed Brown visited a few weeks ago. I can’t speak for his “phoning it in.” When I review, I look for things on the menu that are either unusual (pig ears at Sera, okonomiyaki at Lilly’s) or I ask the server: What do regulars usually order, and what’s best today? As for the crab claws, it’s not lazy; according to our server, “Campisi’s Italian Style Crab Claws” are a big seller, and we were deciding between the claws and the shrimp scampi, both of which the restaurant features on their menu with a little “bump” (center placement, using the restaurant’s name in the dish) for PR. And crab on a menu in an appetizer not followed by the word “cakes” is worth a try. Unfortunately, nobody can try everything, and nobody likes everything. The Weekly makes a good effort to review both “overpriced”, as you say, and budget-friendly restaurants, most of which are locally owned.
Ms James, thank you for your explanation. We honestly enjoy your column most of the time and your search for promising and locally owned dining spots. We do know that it is difficult to try everything and one has one’s own preferences. You might try dining out with your editor, Jeff Prince or Kristian Linn, for an alternative perspective unless it would be far too much fun to get any analytical work done.
I don’t know about “phoning it in”, but I will have to disagree with this review. I had heard good things about Campisi’s so we gave it a try. Not impressed! I had the Shrimp Scampi and it, as another commenter put it, reminded me of school food! The sauce was bland, the shrimp were over cooked and tough. Juddging by the speed at which it came out, i could only guess that it was precooked and sitting in a warmer or it was microwaved. The dinner salad was amazing, as in, it’s amazing how someone can screw up lettuce and dressing. The lettuce was wilted and the dressing was like the suce on the shrimp, watery and tasteless. Just a tip, if you want to put an olive in a salad, buy pitted olives. I thought it was a fluke but both salads had a pit in the olive. This was the first time I ever salted a salad in an attempt to give it flavor. That said I won’t even bother going into the waiters lack of personality and the bad service. I can’t understand how this place has stayed open so long. I’ve had better Italian food out of a Chef Boyardee can.