R.I.P. Old Spaghetti Factory

The downtown staple will shutter this week
| Updated: December 20, 2016

Same story, different day.

Last week guest writer Helen Freund wrote of the closing of the Queen City Grill, a Belltown restaurant with a glitzy and storied past—and a lot of well-heeled customers, particularly during its heyday in the ‘90s.

And this week, Old Spaghetti Factory, that brick bastion of Italian(ish) cuisine, will be ending its nearly 50-year run downtown on Dec. 23, two years after the building was sold to developers.

A couple of years ago, having not thought about the Old Spaghetti Factory in years, I visited the downtown restaurant. My college roommate had just moved here—it was one of our favorites in Stockton, California, a dozen years ago when times (and our palates) were simpler. We’d splurge on piles of pasta that kept us full all day—a welcome departure from the college cafeteria fare. So it was with a deep sense of nostalgia that we decided to revisit. And it didn’t hurt that my then 3-year-old daughter was pretty stoked on the idea of dining in a railcar. 

The restaurant was dark and dusty, just as I remembered. OSF prescribes to the Cracker Barrel more-is-less school of design. I remember spending long stretches on those velvet chairs in the front room, since none of my friends were ever on time. I looked over the menu and settled on an old favorite; I was a vegetarian through my 20s (a story for another day) and always ordered the tangle of spaghetti with mizithra cheese and browned butter. And then there’s the spumoni—a dessert I ate first with a sense of obligation and then learned to enjoy, but only there, out of those little tarnished dishes.

Though this Old Spaghetti Factory wasn’t my Old Spaghetti Factory, it was. That’s the thing about chains like this. There’s an element of reliability and predictability unchanged by time and trends that almost everyone finds comforting. Even my snootiest food-nerd friends (love you, guys!) have a chain that they hold near and dear—be it Taco Time or Red Lobster or Olive Garden or Starbucks. It’s usually something that reminds them of home, of college, of friends and celebrations past.

So it’s a little sad to see a place like this go. Are there better places to get Italian food in Seattle? Inarguably, of course so. But it’s sad to see any longtime restaurant go, particularly when a building sale/new construction is part of the equation, because to many it symbolizes a changing face of the city—for better or worse. If you’re really craving mizithra, there’s always Lynnwood

We asked the followers of our Facebook page to weigh in on OSF’s closure. Here are a few of their comments:

Jenny S Miller-Much: My 44-year-old husband just passed away. He grew up very poor in Snohomish and one of his greatest memories was every year on his birthday getting to eat out at this Spaghetti Factory. He tells the story every year to the kids and I (22 years). He was in the navy the last 25 years and every time we come home we have to eat there. The kids and I will be there one last time before they close in honor of my love.

Laura Garmann Kinney: My first job when I moved to Seattle with my best friend, Beth Fishburn [was] waitressing at OSF. We became 'spaggers' and made lots of friends—we are planning a reunion before closing. Yes, we will miss the place! Most favorite memories: watching Fourth of July fireworks from the roof and going to Top of the Pier bar after work with fellow spaggers!

Mary Weller: So sad… lots of enjoyable family memories there! Hope they don't just put one of those cookie cutter designed apts. in there and actually create some architectural elements that would stand the test of time!

Howie Jon Rebstock: I was a busboy then waiter way back. Great food & people… sad to hear this. It always smells so good to walk into. Developer told they are bldg all around because millions of people are expected to move here.

Paula Blanchette: Just what Seattle needs is more apartments lining the pockets of developers... and the loss of a nice little restaurant that people loved. I don't see this as progress.

Richard Brown: Such a great building and we sure do need more density and no parking for the great sculpture park and waterfront access.

Diane Lea-Rucker: Loved that place... last restaurant I ate in before I moved back east.

Amita Sall: I hope they build the trolley into the design!

Scott Kosa: Love this icon of Seattle very sad to see it go.

(For a truly wonderful essay on the Old Spaghetti Factory, read writer Drew Zandonella-Stannard’s story here.)

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