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Lasagne Manicotti combo
Colorfully presented food is one of the strong points of the Spaghetti Warehouse chain.
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It's pretty hard to talk about restaurants in downtown Akron without a visit to the Spaghetti Warehouse. I tend to have an aversion to national chains, but in so many ways this one is part of a landmark redevelopment in our community. I first toured the BF Goodrich Company offices and factory in 1973, when I was editor of AutoWeek and the company was involved in racing. Little did I know that 14 years later, I would be living here, but the tire part of Goodrich would be gone. The buildings were largely abandoned and run down, many scheduled to be demolished. Then, Covington Capital stepped in, bought the site, and redeveloped it completely into a world class business incubator.
The Spaghetti Warehouse was one of the very first buildings to be renovated. The restaurant opened in 1994 in what had once been a tire warehouse. The chain itself was born in 1972, in Dallas, Texas, fathered by Chef Victor Petta, Jr., who developed a patented method for cooking pasta quickly to exact al dente consistency. Currently, there are 21 locations, including four in Ohio.
Like all chains, there is great consistency from one place to another, and in my opinion, this is easier to achieve with Italian recipes than with any other cuisine. Pasta sauces and dressings are prepared in commissaries, so they are obviously going to be the same; the pasta preparation technique noted above is also the same from one Spaghetti Warehouse to the next. There is a wide range of appetizers on the menu, some of which are very creative and colorful. Soup and salad offerings are a bit more limited. Generally, all the spaghetti and traditional pasta offerings you would expect are available, and there are a number of combination samplers such as the lasagne and manicotti pictured.
Unlike some other Italian chains, fish and steak offerings play a small role. There are a number of chicken features, however. Quite a bit of emphasis is placed on sausage and ground beef. There is a spaghetti with beer chili dish which I suppose will conjure thoughts of Cincinnati style, but I found it very spicy by comparison.
On several visits, the main impression I got was that the word “factory” might be more appropriate than “warehouse”, as everything from the food to the service seems mass-produced. But this should not be taken as harsh criticism. There is room in the world for getting exactly the food you expect in a timely fashion, and one thing the Spaghetti Warehouse does really well is plate presentation. All the dishes are colorful and appetizing, and of course, the environment itself is interesting, filled as it is with a streetcar, phone booths, antiques, and other kitsch.
It you're on the road and want to find another location, or if you want to take a look at the entire menu, here is a link to the web site: http://www.meatballs.com/about_sw.html