This week I thought I'd feature something a little on the lighter (and tastier) side. This is one of only 43 restaurants from a chain called The Old Spaghetti Factory. This one happens to be in Fresno, California, not far from my former mother-in-law's (still a best friend of mine) and one of my former brother-in-law's places in nearby Clovis, California.
I have been to a few of the restaurants in different parts of the U.S. including Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee. This restaurant is located within, perhaps, a mile of the local, more widely known and prolific national Italian cuisine restaurant, Olive Garden.
There are three significant differences between the two restaurants in my mind. First, most Olive Gardens follow a pretty common external appearance and decor. While they don't all look exactly the same, they are usually unmistakable. The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurants are all very uniquely different on the outside. They are often built into very old buildings. In some cases the building might have been a warehouse at one time. There are no two restaurants alike from exterior appearance.
The second difference is in the interior decor. Most Olive Gardens (and I've been in a lot of them all over the U.S.), have a distinctly similar Italian decor, but it is still, in most ways, a very typical restaurant. The Old Spaghetti Factory typically uses the original brick walls, open ceiling of the particular structure it's built in and features unique lighting and uses church pews, antique bed headboards and foot boards that one might typically expect to find in old European castles, villas and manors to create dining booths from. Additionally, prominently located in the center of the dining area is an old streetcar fitted with tables and chairs. None of the restaurant interiors are identical.
The third difference is the menus. Olive Garden has a very diverse and comprehensive menu featuring many special items to meet everyone's tastes. The Old Spaghetti Factory menus may vary slightly from location to location. But, more importantly, they are more limited in the numbers and types of meals they offer on their menus and all entrees on their dinner menus feature three courses. Of course, there is a tasty bread service, but they also offer a choice of an Italian soup or salad, the entree of the diner's choice and dessert consisting of their house specialty, Italian Spumoni ice cream, all inclusive in the price of the meal. There are, of course, extras, like appetizers and such. But, still the menu is, in my opinion, smaller, simpler and easier to make choices from. In general, the prices are in line with Olive Garden prices, or perhaps a little less.
When I first went to one of The Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurants in the late 70's or early 80's, there were a lot fewer restaurants and the menu was even simpler. If I recall correctly, there wasn't a printed menu at all. You simply ordered one of, typically, three entrees off a chalk board at the entrance. All meals were the same price and all were the three course meals they still serve. I really liked that aspect of the restaurant back then. I find huge menus to be a pain in my brain. Too much to read and think about to make a choice.
This restaurant is, obviously the one located in Fresno, California and the photo was taken from the car as we were driving past it. I've been to this one several times with BJ, my former mother-in-law. It's one of our favorite places to go when I'm hanging out in Clovis. And, to be honest, we usually patronize the Olive Garden, too, though we often have to wait longer to get seated at the Olive Garden. We seldom have to wait more than a few minutes at The Old Spaghetti Factory, probably because it has a larger seating capacity.
Look them up on the Web and if you're ever in a city near one of these restaurants, give yourself a treat and try it out.
Live free and be happy. EH