New restaurant set to open in Waterfront development
For years and years, people driving in downtown Wichita have noticed a big brick building printed along the top with the words “Spaghetti Works,” and they’ve gotten hungry. But Spaghetti Works has been gone for years, having closed in 2004, and since then, Wichitans have satisfied their spaghetti cravings elsewhere.
Then in June, Portland-based The Old Spaghetti Factory opened its 43rd restaurant in the old Fox and Hound building at the Wichita Waterfront, the high-end development at 13th and Webb that also has P.F. Chang’s, Abuelo’s, Bonefish Grill, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill and Red Robin. The Old Spaghetti Factory, founded in 1969, is actually the first restaurant that served pasta in an old trolley car set up inside. Spaghetti Warehouse and Spaghetti Works, which was the name for the Kansas franchise of the Spaghetti Warehouse chain, were imitators that came along a few years later.
The new Wichita restaurant has now been open for two months, and it’s always busy. But it’s so incredibly big, with about 365 seats, it’s possible to get a seat if you do it right.
I’ve been a couple of times now and have enjoyed my visits. Budget conscious Wichitans will definitely like the restaurant’s famous three-course meal approach, which means that all entrees come with choice of soup or salad, bread, and a scoop of spumoni ice cream — all included in the price.
Best of all, The Old Spaghetti Factory is a place that my picky kids love and have repeatedly asked to revisit.
▪ On the menu: The Old Spaghetti Factory’s big menu lists all the pasta favorites people expect from an Italian place: lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, chicken Parmesan and angel hair pomodoro, to name a few. Diners also can order a plate of spaghetti topped with choice of marinara sauce, mushroom sauce, white clam sauce or meat sauce, and meatballs and Italian sausage are also options.
The Old Spaghetti Factory is famous for a dish called Spaghetti Mizithra, which founder Guss Dussin’s mother used to make for him as a boy. It features spaghetti topped with browned butter and Mizithra cheese, a Greek style of cheese that’s shredded but thick and toothsome, kind of like ricotta salata. The famous dish comes just with the cheese and browned butter, or there’s another option called Garlic Mizithra that includes sauteed garlic, bacon and mushrooms.
The menu also includes several milkshakes and unusual sweet drinks (including a cotton candy limeade) and it has both a kids menu and a gluten-friendly menu (not gluten-free because, as the menu explains, The Old Spaghetti Factory is not a gluten-free establishment, so cross contamination could occur.)
▪ Don’t-miss dishes: Oh, that Mizithra.
Cheese is my thing, so on my first visit to The Old Spaghetti Factory, I already knew that I was going to order its famous dish. My friendly waitress told me that I’d probably enjoy the garlic version of Spaghetti Mizithra, which adds bacon and mushrooms ($13.75). I took her advice. And I’m so glad I did.
It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had, and I was still thinking about it days later. The cheese is something special. It’s dense enough that you really taste it, it’s nice and salty and there’s just so much of it. I couldn’t finish mine and took half of it home, and it was just as good the next day.
On my next visit, I desperately wanted to get the Garlic Mizithra again but forced myself to try something else, ordering the baked lasagna ($14.50), which is one of my other favorite Italian dishes. The piece was massive, and again, I had to take half of it home. It was so artfully constructed, and a cross section of the piece revealed layers ground pork and beef topped with one wavy lasagna noodle, a thick layer of melted cheese and lots of rich meat sauce spooned on top. The sauce on top was the key. I find that restaurant lasagna served without it can be sort of dry. This was an excellent slice.
The teens with me both ordered the fettuccine Alfredo ($12.75), which was a big plate of nicely cooked noodles tossed with a rich butter cream sauce. It was good but not as much fun as what I was eating.
The teens also talked me into ordering an appetizer of toasted ravioli ($7.50), which was fried and meat-filled. It was pretty standard toasted ravioli, but the marinara sauce served on the side was topped with some of that heavenly Mizithra cheese, and I found myself eating the leftover marinara with a spoon when the appetizer was gone.
So many restaurants these days charge extra for a salad or soup, so I really liked that it was included in the price of the meal. Diners can choose between a house salad or a cup of soup. On both visits, I chose the salad topped with a creamy pesto house dressing. The loaf of crusty bread served at the table is nothing special, though it’s good for sopping up sauce. But that spumoni ice cream, also included in the price of the meal, is a real treat. It’s a generous scoop of pink, brown and green ice cream with little bits of nuts mixed in, and it’s something you should save a little room for. (Vanilla ice cream is also an option if you’re not a spumoni fan.)
My youngest was thrilled with an unusual drink she ordered — a cotton candy limeade, temptingly pictured on a drink menu at the table. It was a Sprite mixed with lime and cotton candy syrup, and on the color-changing straw was a big hunk of pink cotton candy. She ate it all before dinner (bad) but she was smiling from ear to ear (good.) It was $3.50 well spent.
A sign on the table alerted me to an exciting fact I intend to investigate soon. Apparently, Wichita’s Sprouts market at 7728 E. Central is selling containers of Mizithra cheese that you can use at home.
▪ Ambience: The interior of The Old Spaghetti Factory is pretty remarkable, and half the fun of a visit is gawking at it and seeing which unique dining room you’ll end up seated in.
It’s all decorated with the quirky vision of founder Guss Dussin’s wife, Sally, who filled the original restaurant in Portland with funky antiques and rich red, green, gold and purple tones. Even if you don’t get a seat in the signature trolley car, which holds about 20 diners, you might end up in one of the booths whose back looks like an antique bed frame. You might be seated under dramatic chandeliers on one of the velvety purple couches in the bar area or in one of the step-up booths with plush green seats and a curtain that can be pulled for privacy.
Or maybe, like us, you’ll end up in the dining room in the back that has nice views of the little lake at the Waterfront. There’s really not a bad seat in the house.
The interior and furniture is all so nice right now, my only fear is that all of the the surfaces will start to get stained and shabby with time and use, which would take away from the experience.
▪ Price range: Entrees range from $10.50 for spaghetti with marinara sauce to $19.99 for beef tenderloin with Mizithra spaghetti. The average price of an entree is $13-$14, but it seems like a deal with all the extras that are included.
▪ Service: Though the staff at the host stand is still a bit scattered and seating procedures can be confusing, the wait staff we’ve encountered have all been professional and efficient.
Old Spaghetti Factory does not have call-ahead seating, but it does accept reservations. Our first visit was on a Tuesday night, and the restaurant was busy but we were able to get a table within about 15 minutes. Our second visit was on a busy Friday, and at about 5 p.m., we called to see about getting a reservation. None were available until 8:30 p.m., and once we arrived, the place was pretty cleared out.
Three and a half stars (out of four)
Where: 1421 Waterfront, 316-633-4365
Type of food: Italian
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily
Alcohol: Full bar
The Old Spaghetti Factory menu