For now, the Old Spaghetti Factory at 1215 18th Street will continue to ring with the laughter of children and the murmur of contented families filling their bellies with noodles and red sauce. But that will end on September 16, when the pasta parlor will permanently shut the doors of the restored Denver City Cable Railway Building it has called home for the past 45 years.
The culprit, unsurprisingly, is rising rent. The company, founded by Gus Dussin in Portland, Oregon, in 1969, is pulling out of downtown Denver because it was unable to negotiate a new lease deal.
If your childhood memories are filled with birthday parties spent inside the restaurant's trolley, slurping noodles dusted with mizithra cheese, you have less than a month to recapture the magic. But for those who go for the food, there will still be a Westminster outpost of the restaurant at 9145 Sheridan Boulevard, which opened last summer and contains the same vintage decor as the original, even if the exterior brickwork is considerably younger. The company says it's also scouting other locations, both in Denver or elsewhere in Colorado.
While the Old Spaghetti Factory isn't a Denver original, it has been an integral part of the downtown dining scene for generations and is one of a dwindling number of red-sauce joints in town. Three years ago, in her review of the place, Gretchen Kurtz asked this: "How is the Old Spaghetti Factory able to survive in a juiced-up food scene that sees hundreds of new restaurants a year?"
The answer? Cheap and familiar food in a fun setting for both kids and adults. But the "juiced-up" dining scene has only continued to grow; low prices, a family-friendly atmosphere and a generic menu weren't enough to save the eatery from the growing competition downtown, where landlords know someone else is always willing to pay a premium for a space.
Where else can Denver turn for a taste of nostalgia? See our list of six old-school Italian restaurants that have surpassed the fifty-year mark.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.