I have no idea what prompted me to visit the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch the other day. While heading to St. Lawrence Market to get some groceries (and to absorb the good feelings I find there), I decided to eat before shopping in the hopes that a full stomach would curb my impulse buying. Hilarious.
The Old Spaghetti Factory had been a go-to restaurant for me and my gang when I was in high school — we used to go there for supper after seeing a matinee performance at the Canadian Stage theatre. I imagine we thought we were very sophisticated.
It had been at least 35 years since my last visit… was it any different from the last time? Let’s go down memory lane.
Inside the restaurant. This looks the same, except for the ATM.
Seated and this view looks the same. This place has the market cornered on Tiffany-style lighting.
There’s a bed frame hung up here. I never noticed that before, but that doesn’t mean it’s new.
Logo on the menu with the letters that look like spaghetti.
Same pre-meal bread with garlic butter.
This is different. I ususally ate a red-sauced spaghetti or Chicken Parmigiana on previous visits. This was Dad’s choice. I’m pretty sure the menu description used to mention that Homer ate this while writing the Iliad, so that’s different too.
Walked around a bit after the meal.
I remember these horses.
There’s also a streetcar you can eat in, a gigantic gumball machine, lots of stained glass, an old telephone operator’s desk and much more. It may not be posh, but it’s a fun place with lots to look at, good service and decent food. As far as my memory goes, the restaurant is just like I remembered it. I’m glad I paid a visit.
When I got to the Market, I bought some unsalted butter and mizithra cheese so I could re-create the dish at home. This is how it went.
Measure the butter.
Measure the cheese too.
Grate the cheese. You can do this yourself. If you can grate parmesan, you can grate this.
The butter was heated, foamed, then turned into this caramel-coloured liquid.
Cook and drain the pasta.
Pour the browned butter over.
Add the cheese and combine.
Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese.
From the Toronto Star Cookbook, a great book that reflects the diversity of food offered in Toronto.
Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese
makes 4 – 6
This is inspired by one of the signature dishes at The old Spaghetti Factory (oldspaghettifactory.ca). The Toronto branch, on the Esplanade, has been a fixture here sinsw 1971 and we’ve taken several stabs at the recipe, adding things like Romano, garlic and parsley. Finally, company president Peter Buckley gave me the proportions for this three-ingrdient dish.
Aged mizithra (sometimes spelled myzithra) is a hard, salty, white Greek sheep’s cheese, but you can use Italian ricotta salata, too. Ask your cheesemonger to finely grate it for you.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 lb. dried spaghetti
3/4 finely grated aged mizithra cheese (about 3-1/2 oz.)
1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, watching closely and gently swirling the saucepan. The butter will foam and solids will start to separate out and turn brown after 7 to 9 minutes. When it is golden and smells nutty, pour the melted brown butter into a small bowl to halt the cooking. (If there are any black flecks in the butter, strain them out.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
3. Drizzle the pasta with the browned butter and toss well with tongs. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese and toss well again.
4. Divide the pasta among 4 or 6 shallow bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, dividing it evenly.