one evening at the old spaghetti factory

Vintage Ad #1,182: The Little Tramp Likes Spaghetti
Advertisement, Toronto Life, September 1972. More about this ad on Torontoist.

The Old Spaghetti Factory was a staple of my childhood. Most visits to my grandparents included at a trip down to the Esplanade to sit amid the bric-a-brac while my family ate many garlic butter-smeared pieces of bread and slurped down the headline dish. It was an ideal place for my parents to bring me and Amy: colourful, child palate-pleasing, and cheap. The recipe seems to have worked for families and tourists for the past forty years, even if patrons like the little tramp can no longer load up at a salad bar.

Eating Spaghetti

A couple of weeks ago, after spending a vacation day doing research downtown, I decided to surprise Sarah and meet her where her work shuttle dropped her off at Union Station. My timing was good, as I reached the stop not long before she arrived (but not before a t.o.night newsy posted nearby tried to offer me a paper half-a-dozen times).

Trying to figure out where to grab a bite after a tiring work day, we figured a dose of childhood nostalgia would do the trick.

Twirling Spaghetti

Rememebering the crowds from back in the day, I plotted backup plans in case the wait proved too long for our growling bellies. None were enacted as we were seated immediately. We each ordered spaghetti with different assortments of sauces.

Empty Dish

Gourmets might scoff at what we ate (and admittedly it's nowhere near the best pasta in town), but it was a comforting meal. I am tempted to try to replicate the mizithra with browned butter at home sometime. The one disappointment for me was no unsweetened ice tea due to a broken machine; for Sarah, it was discovering that the restaurant is part of a chain.

A Cut-Out Circus for Children

The decor has changed little over the years. Odd antiques still dominated, along with vintage posters. Even the dessert is retro—where else does a scoop of spumoni come with the meal (I usually associate green tea or red bean ice cream as a freebie dessert these days)?

In the end, all of our evening's requirements were met: familiar surroundings, non-fancy food, and a dose of nostalgia to ease the transition from work to the weekend. - JB


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