Spaghetti House Showdown

Two Houses square off in a battle of north-versus-south pride.

The neighborhood spaghetti house was once as American a staple of every-night life as Little League, peach pie, and Lawrence Welk. Now, only baseball remains, thanks to the obesity epidemic, MTV, and the Old Spaghetti Factory, a black mark on Portland, Ore.'s otherwise progressive legacy, which took root in 1969 and has since spread mediocrity across the country like a neutron bomb. In central Seattle, the local Olympia chain has managed to hold its own against the Spag Factory juggernaut, a phenomenon that has thrived mainly in suburbia and near tourist hot spots (witness its warehouse-size waterfront location near the sculpture park). But Olympia's all that's left—until you get to the edges of town (Lake City and White Center, respectively), where the Italian Spaghetti House & Pizzeria and White Center Pizza & Spaghetti House square off in a battle of northeast-versus-southwest pride. Pound for pound, this is tantamount to Sugar Ray Leonard stepping up several weight classes to fight Mike Tyson in his prime, but we're going to put them in the ring nonetheless. Round 1: The Italian Spaghetti House claims an early lead by featuring a cozy waiting area, ornate murals, and a cavernous, congenial atmosphere that screams "special event" to a largely working-class patronage. White Center puts up a weak showing by telling its customers to sit wherever they want, and misses wildly with portraits of Greece on the wall in what is ostensibly an Italian restaurant. Round 2: Each establishment leads with a plate of chopped iceberg lettuce and generous portions of mozzarella, with the Spag House gaining the second-round edge for including antipasti; White Center follows with a tasty garlic bread combo, squelching a feeble rally of breadsticks by its Lake City opposition. White Center ends up winning a hard-fought round by serving up the largest plastic cup of orange soda in the lower 48. Round 3: White Center's pizza is fine and all, but for an establishment that leads with the "P" instead of the "S," it should be better—as in: as good as the Italian Spaghetti House's pie. Arguably the best in town, the Spag House's pie escapes easy definition. The crust is neither thick nor thin; it's just right. And while not all the ingredients are fresh (the salami and pepperoni sure are, though), canned mushrooms taste better than they have a right to atop these amazing slices. Round 4: Conversely, while the Spag House's pasta dishes are respectable, White Center offers up a dish—and a very good version of it at that—that might be one of a kind in the Seattle area: baked spaghetti with spare ribs. This must be the Northwest's version of chicken and waffles; these items have no business going well together, but somehow they do. White Center takes the fourth round on all cards. Round 5: The Spag House offers a bowl of spumoni with all entrées; White Center doesn't. Nothing says "technical knockout" like a bowl of spumoni. Spag House wins! Spag House wins!

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