The Arts District has seen a recent burst of energy after lying relatively dormant during the pandemic, with people once again flocking to the trendy neighborhood. Seventh and Mateo has become an increasingly hot corner for people looking for something good to eat. Yess Aquatic is a sustainable seafood truck that parks in front of their future home, which is currently under construction. Recent Japanese import Afuri Ramen + Dumpling dispenses yuzu shio noodle soups and pan-fried gyoza. Guerrilla Tacos, Guerrilla Cafecito, and Everson Royce Bar are just three more prime options within spitting distance of the intersection. Still, Margi Chimichangas stands out by serving elegant deep-fried seafood burritos from a white trailer.
Margi Chimichangas is full of surprises, starting with Marco Castelli, a native Italian who hails from Bergamo, a historic city northeast of Milan. He runs Margi Chimichangas with wife Jessica Rodriguez, who was born in León, Guanajuato, and has lived in L.A. since age six. They met while working together at shuttered Hollywood gelateria Grom, which brought Castelli to L.A. in 2014. After Grom closed all its U.S. locations in 2020, the couple had the freedom to fulfill a mutual dream by opening a food business, choosing to focus on chimichangas.
“Jessica loves cooking and is always looking for new recipes,” Castelli says. “We both love to try new cuisines. A couple of years ago she found the chimichanga recipe and after trying it we both fell in love with this crunchy and tasty burrito.”
Rodriguez sometimes works on the truck, but she and Castelli have a nine-month-old baby, so that’s typically only when her mom can babysit. “She is the heart of the business,” Castelli says. “She had the idea of the chimichanga, made all the recipes and does all the prep that makes me able to go in the street every day.”
Some people believe the chimichanga built on Sonoran chivichanga traditions, which crossed the border. Other people frequently credit El Charro Café in Tucson, Arizona, with the chimichanga’s origin, though rival restaurants of course lay claims. It’s hard to imagine nobody previously fried a burrito in northern Mexico.
Versions from Margi Chimichangas feature thin, crispy flour tortillas that are cut in half to reveal distinct strata. Chimi Pacific ($13) combines plump seared shrimp with guacamole, Mexican rice (white grains with carrots and peas), mild cilantro-lime salsa, and light sour cream. Chimi Red ($14) counters with butter-lemon seared lobster meat, mild chipotle salsa, Mexican rice, and guacamole.
Even though text on the trailer advertises “seafood chimichangas,” their signature Chimi Margi is actually seafood free, combining a cherry tomato and roasted pepper mix, red onions, and both guacamole and avocado slices.
Other dishes draw on Rodriguez’s family recipes, research, and imagination. To maximize their deep fryer, the couple also sells fries (with or without rosemary and garlic) and breaded jalapeño poppers filled with cream cheese. They also just added shrimp tacos (seared or breaded) on corn tortillas.
Terrific salsas include tangy salsa verde crafted with tomatillo and Serrano chiles, moderately spicy salsa roja featuring guajillo chiles. and chile de arbol. Ask for “crunch spice,” a versatile salsa seca made using a recipe from Rodriguez’s grandmother that combines dried chiles (including Japonais), shallots, minced garlic, and onions that would be good on almost anything.
Drinks center on horchata, the popular cinnamon-tinged rice milk agua fresca. Rodriguez soaks her version overnight before blending with milk and evaporated milk. Strawberry Delight is a seasonal variation that incorporates blended strawberries, and the Black Horchata ($3) adds punch with cold brew coffee.
Margi has twin meanings. Margì is a popular Carnival mask in Bergamo, depicting the character Giupì’s wife. The name also refers to a memorable Castelli family expression. Castelli explains: “Saying ‘Ciao Margi’ indicates surprise for something unexpected or exaggerated that just happened.”
“Most people that open food trucks focus on foods that are common, foods that people look for,” Castelli says. “We wanted to propose something different, stepping out of the normality. We think it is a risk worth taking.”
Margi Chimichangas; 310-340-8511, www.instagram.com/foodmargi
Margi Chimichangas typically parks their trailer in the Arts District on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving other days free to explore additional neighborhoods like Westwood and to cater private events.
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