Spaghetti All Around

There was a period in my life when our family was fairly spread out.  Bec and Terry and their kids lived in Oklahoma or Alabama or northern Virginia or even — for heaven’s sake! — Germany. Dave and his brood lived (and still do) in Arizona. Jen and her family lived in Fort Collins (where she still lives), Court and I lived in Denver, and Mom and Dad lived up in the mountains in Summit County. The family has always gathered together as often as possible, but obviously it wasn’t always easy for Bec and Dave to travel to Colorado.

Still, on a fairly regular basis, those of us who lived in Colorado would meet in a central location. We spent weekends in Golden at the Holidome. We would meet in Estes Park. But one of our favorite spots to meet — especially when the kids were small — was the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Denver. 

We liked it because it was reasonably priced, the kids were welcomed, and the food was predicable and good. Mom, in particular, loved the Old Spaghetti Factory. We met, of course, in the days before cell phones. It was always busy, and whoever got there first would put in our names. When we walked in the door, we never knew who was there or if we were the first ones because see above. No cell phones. We always had to wait in the bar. Maybe a glass of wine for the grown ups and a pop for the kids. If we could sit right at the bar, that was even better…..

The building is historic — the old Cable Building. Inside are room after room full of tables. But if you were really lucky, you got to sit inside the caboose which had its own tables. We lucked out a number of times.

Jen called me up a few weeks ago. Did you know the Spaghetti Factory is closing down for good, she asked me. Mom would be so sad, we both decided. We also decided that one last trip to the Spaghetti Factory in honor of Mom was in order. We did so this past Sunday evening.

I was certain no one would be there. If they had a lot of customers, they wouldn’t be closing down, I theorized.

I was wrong:

Welcome to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Your wait will be two-and-a-half hours.

Luckily, we arrived at 5:30. To kill time, we walked to nearby Larimer Square and had a drink at Capital Grille. After all, we had two-and-a-half hours to kill. Except we didn’t, because around 7, my cell phone dinked. Your table is ready.

You have never seen three people walk quite so fast. We made it there in about five minutes and none of us had a heart attack. Nevertheless, our table was gone. So we did what we had done many times in the past: we went to the bar to wait for a table…..

Our wait wasn’t long as the staff was nice enough to put us at the top of the list. We soon were sitting at our table eating the familiar food…..

As we ate, we reminisced about all of the times we had sat in this same room with Mom and Dad. I also remembered a time — years ago — when Bill and I came to the Spaghetti Factory with some of our kids and grandkids…..

Jen and I took a minute to sit on the old red sofa where we had spent many nights waiting for a table…..

I’m not sure why the restaurant is closing. Perhaps the valuable real estate will be put to a more lucrative use. Time moves on, and for us, a memorable monument is vanishing.

And never mind that there is apparently another Spaghetti Factory in one of the northern suburbs. It won’t ever be the same, because it was never about the food. It was about the family.

Thanks for all the memories…..

The Meat of the Matter

Ingredients for a simple and delicious meatless meal.

Ingredients for a simple and delicious meatless meal.

As a so-called cradle Catholic, I’ve always been puzzled at the concept of abstaining from meat on Fridays. When I was a child, we couldn’t eat meat any Friday of the year. At some point in the mid-60s I think, the Church rule changed to what it is today – abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent only.

What’s always puzzled me is, why meat? Why not something else? Why not coffee, or meat and fish, or alcohol, or bubble gum. Well, maybe not bubble gum as I don’t think there was such a thing as bubble gum in the middle ages.  There is some thought that a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Catholic Church was trying to help out the struggling fishing industry. I don’t know if that is true or not, though according to the internet – which as you know, never lies – that is very possibly the case.

The reason this puzzles me so is that not eating meat on Fridays is absolutely no sacrifice for me. In fact, I love that I finally have an excuse to cook fish to serve to Bill, for whom giving up meat IS actually a sacrifice.

And furthermore (and I’m really starting to get nervous about a bolt of lightning), not eating meat on Fridays has the oh-so-slight resemblance to the hypocrites, about which I have been so focused this Lenten season. Look at me. I’m a Catholic. I’m not eating meat on Fridays. My conclusion is that while I may go to hell, it won’t be because I ate a piece of meat on Friday during Lent. Not that I have, mind you.

Having said all of that, I have been furiously posting nonmeat recipes on Pinterest and googling simple and tasty vegetarian fare so that I can have something to place in front of my hungry husband each Friday. As an aside, (and I know I have mentioned this before) back in the days when we couldn’t eat meat on any Friday, I remember my mom and dad staying up until midnight Friday night so that my mom could fry a skinny steak for my dad, who apparently believed he couldn’t go to work with only salmon casserole in his tummy. God bless them both.

As a service to my Catholic readers or anyone else interested in occasional vegetarian eating (and also to break the monotony of my seemingly endless blabbering on about my wholly uninteresting life) I am going to post non-meat recipes each week during Lent. For one day a week for the next 40 days and 40 nights, I’m going to pretend I’m a cooking blog.

God help us all.

When my son Court was small and my parents were both still living (I know you are all now saying, “I thought she wasn’t going to talk about herself!”), we used to meet at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Denver.  I have so many fond memories of mclains spaghetti factorythe times we spent there. And my memories continue, as it still is such a fun place to eat, especially when you have kids. We recently ate dinner at the Spaghetti Factory around Christmastime when our Vermont family was visiting. No one minded that there were a few kids running around and the volume was somewhat elevated.

Every time I have eaten at the Spaghetti Factory – every single, solitary time – I have ordered the same thing. It is called Pot Pourri, which is a sampler of their spaghetti with meat, marinara, clam, and mizithra cheese and browned butter.

The truth is, I don’t know why I don’t just order spaghetti with mizithra cheese, spaghetti mizithraas that is the one I like the most. I think it’s because I like to have a bit of the red sauce to mix into the cheese.

Here is the method  for making Old Spaghetti Factory’s spaghetti with mizithra cheese and browned butter. The most important thing is to make sure the butter is nicely browned. Not just melted, but browned. And lots of cheese.

spaghetti browned butter mizithra cheese 2

Voila. A perfect Friday dinner.