***CLOSED*** Porta di Roma ~ Watauga, Texas

This is really too bad. Marco's was a very good place. Then they became Porta di Roma, and we visited early in its new tenure (see below), and it was good but not the same. But it wasn't long before the comments came in that the place had turned terrible. And now it's gone.

One of the beauties of having a blog is that it remains dynamic. Therefore I can make updates to past entries and re-enter them as new.

In June of 2008 we wrote about Marco's, a fine Italian restaurant in Watauga. It has since changed ownership and been rebranded as Porta di Roma. But little has changed. It's still a familiar Balkan owned DFW Italian restaurant. We noticed the bread was different and the sauces tasted a bit more sour. Because of this, there's no point in a new writeup, so the below represents a slight alteration of the original posting.

Porta di Roma is one of the many Italian restaurants in NE Tarrant with an Albanian or Yugoslav heritage. I realize when I use the term "Yugoslav", that it could mean Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Bosnian, Macedonian, etc... The RJG has traveled through the former Yugoslavia, in fact I was there in 1994 during one of the regional wars. Beautiful countries, all of them I've discovered that the local restaurants are starting to fib a bit about their heritage, and state that they are from Italy, but I know that's not the case. And so I've noticed a reluctance of the proprietors to reveal a more exact location of their roots. In this case, Porta di Roma is more forthcoming that they're from Albania. It truly doesn't matter to me, as long as the food is excellent. And I can say that almost every Italian restaurant in NE Tarrant is good. I do wish for more variety amongst the sauces, dressings and preparations - and there is some of that - but one can't blame these folks for earning a good living. And, truth be told, there weren't many Italian restaurants prior to their arrival, so we are more fortunate than not.

With that out of the way, let me introduce Porta di Roma, a very fine restaurant in Watauga, situated in a newish strip mall off of Rufe Snow near Starnes. In fact its predecessor, Marco's, was an original anchor tenant when they opened sometime around 2004 or so. I would say that Porta di Roma is slightly more upscale than most of the Italian restaurants in the area, but fortunately not reflected in the reasonable prices (and they also allow BYOB, adding to the savings). The menu will be familiar as will the house dressing, red and white sauces, meats, chicken, vegetables, etc... Other places we've reviewed already, namely Bellisimo and Dal Italia, will provide more detail on what to expect taste-wise. We were a little disappointed overall with the flavors. It seems some of the recipes have been altered, and not for the better. I do mean "little" though. Maybe one point less than Marco's but still good.

The only real complaint we have, and it's not food related, is the unusual setting of the restaurant. For whatever reason, the original Marco's decided to have a lot of windows, presumably to allow the natural light through. It's quite an elegant setting, and one can only imagine having a view of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, Lake Michigan or the Pacific Ocean to gaze at while enjoying a romantic dinner. Instead we get a wonderful, unobstructed, perfect view of .... Walgreens, Pizza Hut and the parking lot. Advice: Get some drapes! Go completely old school, and it will feel like a "classy joint" circa 1966. The RJG always gives points for retro. And besides, your Mom or Grandma will love it! I left the drapes comment in, because guess what Porta di Roma did? Added drapes! LOL. But not enough of them! The main window still leaves a perfect view of the Pizza Hut, etc... Ugh.

While on the topic of ambiance, on the plus side, I did want to compliment Porta di Roma for their music selection. Mostly it was soft 1950s/1960s era jazz. Perfect for the setting and probably the best we've heard since the now defunct Clear Creek Seafood played John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme".

Last visit: January 2009


Francis Shivone said…
For some reason many of the Italian restaurants/owners in DFW are from that region. Most of the time I like the pizza, I seldom order pasta because it is never cooked "al dente."

Nice to hear their choice of music as well. I dislike Italian mood music in Italian restaurants.

On a trip to Italy ... in Florence ... cozy little restaurant ... the music: Kenny Rogers, the Gambler.

Something wrong with that picture.
RJG said…
Francis, that is so true what you say about al dente. My wife and I love our pasta that way, and it can be difficult to find. There have been a couple of places where we asked for it, and they didn't even know what it meant! I haven't written about those restaurants - they always go out of business quickly. Gee, I wonder why?

There are some places that do a good job with pasta like I Fratelli, Siciliano's, Cafe Sicilia, Dal Italia, Prego and Pietro's (the latter 2, in Dallas, I haven't written about yet - but are personal favorites)

Also had similar experiences in Italy. It's definitely work over there as well. Not any random restaurant is great - but many are.

Thanks for your comments - you inspired us on Galligaskin's.
Anonymous said…
Well, my impression of the place: plain, sad, and uninviting. I guess Pizza Hut store next to it supplies them with pizzas.

Saturday night at 7 PM there was no greeter at the door. Room 2/3rd filled with diners and screaming kids. One teenage waitress with tears in her eyes trying to handle the traffic. After 30 minutes I got my ice tea, however, since no one attempted to ask me if I was willing to eat, I just left the place, so, I can not report about the quality of the food.

I have been treated better at roadside diners.

One good thing though. The air in the dining room was surprisingly clean.

Will give it one more try, maybe different day and time.

Ended up at Diegos in Weslake. Fresh food, fast service, cozy and inviting. Highly recommend it.

Casual Diner
RJG said…
Hmm... the place was definitely better when it was Marco's. Looks like it's headed to oblivion pretty fast.

We'll need to try Diego's!

Thanks for your comments Casual Diner. (sorry for the delay in posting your comment - was out of town without my computer)
Anonymous said…
As I said in my previous post, I gave it another try. Tuesday at 1 PM. That was much better. No greeter, but no need for one, I guess. There were 2 (two) patrons at one table when we arrived - brought a company with me this time. We were able to pick any table and get almost undivided attention from the food server. Quite a change.

Fried calamaris were delicious.
Shrimp cooked with picante sauce good as well.

Sauce served with veal jerusalem sligtly overslted and overgreased.

Desserts deserve a special mention. Tiramisu, triple cocolate cheesecake and ice cream were exquisite.

On a scale of 10 the food gets 8.

To sum it up:
Previous incident was a gross negligence on the part of management/ownership. A big no no in any service establishment. From what I learned, more people left the restaurant on that Saturday night.

Would I recommend it? Yes, however, choose the time of your visit there wisely. No peak hours.

Thank you Porta di Roma. We love you.

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