Red in the Face

Taking my inner kid back to the Old Spaghetti Factory.

Oh those blissful days gone by . . . when I was young and naive and believed that a classy dinner was any meal occurring outside the dining room of my family's cozy split-level house. This cute but delusional definition of "classy" may have contributed to my fascination with Seattle's Old Spaghetti Factory, a giant warehouse filled with funky paraphernalia to entertain and stimulate all of a youngster's senses: bed frames and plush furniture provided seats for diners and various contraptions hung from the walls, giving the room an antique-store ambience. And, of course, the signature decoration, a classic trolley in the middle of the restaurant, had a singular purpose, seemingly, of torturing children who weren't able to snag a spot inside its coveted interior. Damn trolley. Returning to this beloved restaurant recently for a trip down memory lane, I discovered that things haven't changed all that much in 15 years. My friends (who also cherished Spaghetti Factory memories) and I managed to score one of those trolley car tables that formerly caused me so much pain when stuck at the "regular" tables in the restaurant's dark recesses. After settling smugly into our seats, we peeked out the trolley windows to survey the scene, which essentially consisted of . . . children, most of them preoccupied with swirling noodles around their plates, poking straws up their nostrils, or sticking their fingers in their spumoni. Undaunted by these unappetizing antics, we ordered garlic bread, spaghetti with mushroom-tomato sauce, and Caesar salad. Upon the arrival of our salads, I was shocked to see how small and unappetizing they appeared. But perhaps this is why OSF was so appealing when I was small . . . no threat of Mom forcing dark greens down your throat when there aren't any in the dwarf salad. At least the salad is included in the whole meal "package", I told myself, which includes an entrée, a drink, and a tasty dessert for $7.50, so it's a hell of a deal! The garlic bread arrived ($3.95, not included in the "happy meal"): goopy, cheesy, and fatty enough to add inches to my behind. We all stared enviously as the kids around us consumed the calorific bread in happy ignorance of cellulite and thunder thighs. When the main course arrived, it was another disappointment. My spaghetti with mushroom sauce looked like a plateful of worms drowning in ketchup, with an occasional gray mushroom fighting its way to the surface for air. I loved ketchup as a child, squirting it over macaroni and cheese and anything resembling a potato. But as an adult with a pickier palate, I find I need something slightly more sophisticated covering my pasta. On the other hand, the little boy squished into the small table next to us seemed to have no complaints, happily smearing the blood-red sauce all over his face while his mother looked on adoringly—until he playfully hurled a handful of the stuff right at her face. Slightly grossed out by the dripping sauce and embarrassed for the demon-child's mother, we averted our attention to another table in view from our trolley windows, where a cute little girl happily sipped an Italian cream soda. How could I forget? One of the best parts of eating at the Spaghetti Factory was taking your classy Italian soda glass home with you. I immediately flagged a waitress and ordered a round, happy in my knowledge that Italian cream sodas can bridge any age gap and new glassware is always appreciated. Along with our sodas came dessert, tiny cups of spumoni that we gobbled in a few bites. By this point, we were all a little disillusioned. Filled to the brim with iceberg lettuce, ass-enlarging garlic bread, ketchupy spaghetti, and mini-dishes of ice cream, we stumbled down the trolley stairs and out the front door, sadder but wiser: The Old Spaghetti Factory is still perfect for families with children, but disillusionment awaits those attempting to revisit their childhood there. Old Spaghetti Factory, 2801 Elliott Ave., 206-441-7724, DOWNTOWN. 11:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs. and Sun. ; 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.

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