Last week, the Seattle Times' Sanjay Bhatt reported that the Old Spaghetti Factory building was sold for $9 million. The restaurant will likely close soon, though it "will remain open as the developers noodle with ideas for redevelopment.”
While few will mourn the loss from a culinary standpoint (if you are worried about the loss of their spaghetti with mitzithra cheese, go to Olympia Pizza on Capitol Hill and order the Greek spaghetti—I recommend adding a side of meatballs to it), I will miss the place because chain restaurants like the Old Spaghetti Factory tend to be a repository for weird, wonderful memories and nostalgia. Until last week, I had somehow missed this sweet essay, "Dinner With My Big Gay Family at the Old Spaghetti Factory," that local writer Drew Zandonella-Stannard penned for Eater last month.
I ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory exactly once, when I was 22, on a date with a guy I bought pot from. I worked at a bookstore at the time. (The bookstore, Bailey/Coy Books, has long since closed, which makes all this feel like it happened 100 years ago.) It wasn't going well; I had accidentally gotten way, waaaaay too high in his Cadillac beforehand, which made the old-timey, dark-wood and stained-glass interior seem creepy and nefarious. It took an unrecoverable turn for the worse when, as I was taking a sip from a glass of red wine, he said, “Wait, I always forget: Fiction’s the stuff that’s made up, right?” I definitely spilled a glass of water into the bread basket at some point, but I don't remember much else about the meal.
Almost everyone has an Old Spaghetti story. I asked a few Stranger writers to share theirs.
It was the first place I tried spumoni ice cream. I was (and still am) a huge reader, so as a kid I used to regularly come across words for things or experiences that were foreign to me. I was JUST SO EXCITED to try this exotic/old-fashioned flavor I'd read about, feeling very grown-up… and it was just super basic ice cream. I could not figure out what all those kids in the books were so damn excited about. But it was still good, because, you know, it was ice cream. —Katie Allison
I genuinely love eating at the Old Spaghetti Factory. I get the exact same thing every time—spaghetti with meat sauce, iceberg lettuce salad with creamy pesto dressing—and it is always exactly the same and perfect. It tastes exactly like childhood to me, though I didn’t go there until my early 20s. —Sean Nelson
I’m glad the Old Spaghetti Factory is closing. There, I said it. The only time I went there, my friends dragged me into it with promises of ironic revelry. We’d be tossing back bellinis and laughing at awkward high school prom dinner attendees until it was time to hop back in the Mercury Villager and make our merry way home. At the time I was in the late stages of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. A bellini is a drink made with sweetened-motherfucking-peach puree and Korbel. I checked the Old Spaghetti Factory’s website and one—one!—serving of the famous mizithra cheese and brown butter pasta is 99 grams of carbohydrates to the dome. They have unlimited bread service.
It was not ironic revelry. It was the closest I’ve ever come to a ketoacidosis-induced coma. If I could go back and relive that night I would have gone somewhere cooler, like the doctor’s office. Also, the prom dresses weren’t even worth making fun of. —Tobias Coughlin-Bogue
I used to live for the bread and garlic butter (why couldn't both ramekins be filled with garlic butter??) when my homegirl used to work there in the late ’90s. I thought the food was good then somehow. But I think I was blinded by youth and over-sweet drinks from the bar (sangria maybe?).
I went there with my lady for Valentine's as a joke, years ago. The romantic ambience was lovingly set to screaming-demon-child and I don't think there was even any garlic butter. The food looked and tasted like puke (sad story: I've eaten puke before) and it was loaded with Dead Sea-level salt. I wept hot salty tears for the sad little flecks of clam-like substance that had to die for my linguine. After a very bloated and regretful walk home, we managed to laugh as we popped Tums. The joke, it seemed, was on us. —Larry Mizell Jr.
I grew up eating burgers in cars with the occasional Skippers fish ‘n’ chips, All-U-Can-Eat Sunday buffet bar thrown in for good health. The Old Spaghetti Factory was my first, and only, sit-down and be waited upon restaurant experience as a kid, except for a momentous 13th birthday luncheon at Frederick & Nelson.
I don’t remember what the occasion was that led my family to dine out at the Old Spaghetti Factory. I do remember obsessing over the font on the menu: the restaurant’s name was written in noodles. We dressed up and put our napkins in our laps like we had seen on Anne of Green Gables. My little sister kept touching the flapper-dress-like fringes of antique lamps. When the first breadbasket came, we all fell upon it like wild animals. Our waiter returned, again and again, with more hot sourdough and a smile. Miraculous! This feeling has never left me. As a teenager, I brought my prom date to OSF, and impressed him by asking for a fourth bread refill, which I plopped into my purse for later.
While it is not, officially, an All-U-Can-Eat buffet, the plates of spaghetti are so enormous, and the baskets of bread so bottomless, that diners leave satisfied with dollar-spent to pound-of-food-consumed ratio. My family considered Italian food an exciting departure from meatloaf, and OSF made this adventure navigable by clearly describing the multi-course meal. You know exactly what you are getting. Every meal ends with a frosty bowl of spumoni ice cream. The only decision you encounter is what kind of sauce you want on your spaghetti.
I’ll save you the agony: half mizithra cheese and browned butter, half marinara: “Legend has it that Homer lived on it [the mizithra and browned butter sauce] while composing The Iliad.” Ancient Greek literary references aside, as accustomed as we were to Dick’s and Burgermaster, my family still felt right at home. A few years later, when it came time to take our Japanese exchange student to a fine dining experience on Seattle’s historic waterfront, she blew our minds with the news that she had eaten at the Old Spaghetti Factory in her hometown of Kobe.
When I heard our downtown Seattle OSF building sold, and this childhood icon might vanish, I took my teenagers out to lunch there immediately. Did you know you can get blue lemonade with a pink cotton candy cloud floating on the straw? Also, every Italian soda comes with a free souvenir glass. Needless to say, my kids were impressed. Jacked up on sugar and carbs, my oldest daughter gaped in horror when I declined our waiter’s offer of more hot sourdough bread.
“Mom, did you forget your purse? Here, we can use mine,” she said.
As we rolled our bloated bellies home up Capitol Hill, we passed the Cheesecake Factory.
“That is not OUR Factory,” my younger daughter said. –Rachel Kessler