Thursday, November 17, 2011


Visiting friends who live just north of Columbus, Ohio, has been a treat for my husband Jack and I for the past couple of decades. Those friends, in fact, introduced us to another treat: the Spaghetti Warehouse. The restaurant opened there in 1978, in the former Crystal Ice Manufacturing and Cold Storage Building (warehouse, get it)? That plant closed in 1965 and remained vacant until Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurants Inc. of Irving, Texas, decided to renovate the place and open up shop.

For years, we looked for a location not quite so far away; for a time, there was one in Cleveland, but even that was a bit too far to go unless we had another reason to visit the city, and by the time that happened, the place was closed. What we didn't realize - at least until our son and daughter-in-law, who invited us to join them for lunch one fine day, mentioned the place as a possibility - is that there's a Spaghetti Warehouse in Akron. Oh wow, we said - when did that happen?

A little research on the company's website told me it happened in 1993 - and now we're kicking ourselves for missing several years of opportunity to enjoy the wonderful Italian food lo these many years. This location is historic as well - the building once was the B.F. Goodrich Building #33 and was closed in the 1980s.

For the record, Spaghetti Warehouse now has restaurants in Akron Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Pittsburgh plus a presence in New York, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas (where it all began in 1972) and Florida.

The decor at both the locations we've visited is interesting, fun and always
incorporates artifacts from the original buildings - the Akron restaurant, for instance, features one of the few remaining Akron Railway cars that transported people up and down Main Street. There are lots of goodies hanging from the ceiling, and everywhere you look you'll find signs, memorabilia and intriguing items that demand a closer look.

But it's the food that stirs up our cravings to return. If you love Italian, we think you'll love it too.

I must say the traditional red sauce here seems to have changed a bit from our old-time visits to Columbus. I've said many times over that my favorite spaghetti sauce comes from Sunrise Inn in Warren. My second favorite was from Spaghetti Warehouse; it was thick, sweet, what I'd deem to be "Old World" style and absolutely mouth-watering.

What we got in Akron wasn't quite what I remembered (truth is, neither was it the same last time we were at the Columbus restaurant perhaps a couple of years ago). Today, it's thinner and much less distinctive, but that's certainly not to say I don't like it.

Our party of five -- the two of us, our son and daughter-in-law and her mother -- had reserva
tions, but there was plenty of seating available so we wouldn't have needed one. Interestingly, we sat at a large cage-like table with booth seating that was situated directly under a huge mirror (that's it on the left); if we looked up, we could watch ourselves eat! Needless to say, it made for some neat photos.

The menu is quite extensive, starting with tempting appetizers like stuffed mushrooms, calamari, fried zucchini and garlic cheese bread. Soups and salads are available too; wedding soup is always a favorite of mine ($4.49), and the beer chili -- beef, chilies and beer simmered together served with cheddar cheese and onions -- sounded yummy too (also $4.49). But our appetites weren't exactly on high alert at lunch time, so we passed this time around and headed straight for the entrees.

And oh my, what a wealth of choices greeted us. Those who don't care for red sauce might consider Wild Mushrooms Chicken Pasta or Roasted Garlic Shrimp. Those who do might opt for the 15-Layer Lasagne, Chicken Florentine ($12.49) or Chicken Bowtie Milano (grilled chicken, spinach, mushrooms, artichokes and bowtie pasta in creamy marinara cream sauce, $11.99) - these prices reflect the dinner menu, by the way.

That 15-layer lasagne, I should note, is hand-made daily, and the stack includes meat sauce, Italian pork sausage, ground beef and Romano, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses topped with extra sauce ($11.49).

In the end, three of us stuck with fairly basic spaghetti dishes; our son picked the one with two meatballs and tomato sauce, asking for it on angel hair pasta ($9.99). My choice had no meatball, but the meat sauce was house-made with beef and pork, onions, garlic, Romano cheese, olive oil, tomatoes, beef stock and seasonings (also $9.99). I also asked for the "spicy" version.

Jack's choice was Spaghetti & Mushrooms, which consisted of tomato sauce topped with cremini and button mushrooms sauteed with onions, sherry and garlic butter ($8.29). The other two ladies in the group picked Chicken Tettrazini, or grilled chicken over spaghetti with sauteed mushrooms and Romano cheese in cream sauce ($9.99) and Grilled Chicken Alfredo, a breast served over fettuccini with creamy Alfredo sauce ($9.29).

Our son did point out that there's no pesto sauce of any kind on the menu, which came as a bit of a surprise at an Italian restaurant. No surprise, though, was that we were all delighted with our choices, passing our plates around so we could try everything. As far as I'm concerned, I'd be quite happy with any one of them - and I think the others came to the same conclusion. If I had a complaint, it was that their idea of spicy certainly doesn't match mine (either that or my request was overlooked totally). There wasn't even a hint of extra heat.

Since we'd passed on appetizers and weren't in any hurry to go anywhere else, all but one of us went wild and crazy with dessert. Here, too, our son noted the lack of espresso - something he loves after dinner and certainly expected to find here. Similarly, Jack loves spumonte but it's hardly ever available at other Italian restaurants. Happily, though, it's here; a sundae at $2.99 tasted like heaven. I decided on lemon cream cake ($4.99), white cake with a tangy lemon cream filling served with strawberry and mango puree (talk about heaven)!

Another favorite was the 12-layer chocolate cake for $6.29, which turned out to be an absolutely gigantic chuck with cake and chocolate mousse layers with vanilla ice cream and a drizzling of chocolate sauce and chopped pecans. Our son tried the Warehouse Tiramisu ($4.99), noting that it was more "elaborate" than he'd expected. It was quite good, but he said he still prefers the more traditional version. I'm not a Tiramisu fan, but I tried a bite and liked it a lot.

Back home, I signed up for the Spaghetti Warehouse e-mail club so I can get discount coupons, news and other good stuff. And yes, we're already planning another family get-together - in fact, it may have taken place by the time you read this!

If you go:
The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant
510 S. Main St.
Akron, OH 44311
(330) 374-0025

Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.