Monday, June 29, 2009

Spaghetti Works

Restaurant: Spaghetti Works (Ralston)
Address: 8412 Park Dr.
Genres: Italian
Check Constraints: 15% Gratuity on parties of 8+, only one coupon per table.
Chain: Yes | More Omaha Locations: Yes

  • Italian Soda, Strawberry (2.79)
  • 4pc Cheese Bread (3.99)
  • Soda (1.35)
  • Fettuccini Alfredo (7.99) w/Chicken (2.49)
    • Garlic Bread
    • Salad Bar
About forty years ago, Spaghetti Works started here in Omaha. Since then, it's expanded slightly, to Lincoln and Des Moines, but there are still only four stores, total, two of which are in Omaha. This particular spaghetti works is decorated vigorously with old time advertisement signs and such, much like Billy Frogg's, only in much lower quantity. The salad bar is on the back of an ancient truck (probably a mock up) and there is an inexplicable and unidentified bust, which someone has painted badly. It is cross eyed, and if you were trapped with it in a dark room, it might kill you.

Of course, none of that is food, which is what matters, so we'll start at the top. The italian soda (we tried a number of varieties, as the intern decided to get a new flavor every time he got a refill) was pretty uniformly not to my taste. The strawberry, which I actually paid for, wasn't horrible, but it reminded me of my mom's wine coolers, which I used to sneak drinks off when I was a wee lad. Thus, I refute the accusations of my peers that I enjoy girly froo-froo drinks.

The cheese bread needs some help. The garlic bread part of it was quite good, but something in the cheese seemed off a bit. I didn't feel it so much, but Cham will likely harp on it for a sentence or two, and this may well be the only place where I advocate getting the garlic bread instead of the cheese bread. Luckily, garlic bread comes with every meal, along with the salad bar. Toasted ravioli was also ordered, with the beef being of superior quality, while the cheese was, strangely enough, cheese and hot pepper. Unfortunately, the beef was slightly overdone, while the cheese was slightly underdone, and in light of the fact that your pasta and garlic bread are endless, I suggest eschewing appetizers in favor of the higher quality entrees.

The alfredo here was not quite so excellent as Lansky's, but it was still quite good. A tad on the thick side, but definitely lacking in the bitter, and it didn't require any additional parmesan, which is always a step up. I kind of wish I had gotten the monster combo that Mecha got, though. Thirteen bucks, and he got a platter of food that was downright Mexican in its portions. He ended up taking home half of what he got in a box, it was that much, and it was, hands down, the best chicken parm I have ever tasted. I regret only getting one bite, because with more I might have managed to figure out how they made the breading so damn good.

  • Diet Coke ($1.99)
  • Garlic Cheese Bread ($3.99)
  • Hot Italian Pie ($10.49)
That bust was terrifying, all the more so because our flighty and scatterbrained server did not know who it was. Frankly I don't think I could work in those conditions - it's like some sort of bearded Big Brother. Incidentally, the decor didn't sit badly with me, with the exception of the rather inexplicable truck. On top of its inexplicability, it was also all the way across the building from the bulk of the seating, so hitting the salad bar almost required a guide, porters, and an elephant for success.

The salad bar itself was decent (it includes beets!) though there was nothing special about the dressings. I would like to say that I have absolutely no idea how I was expected to get at the middle row of salad toppings - that is to say, the ones buried in the center of the cart. I am not a short person, so the process of liberating some cucumbers involved me trying hard not to mush my face into the sneeze guard while overextending my shoulder to get under the damn thing. I'm not OSHA, but that is hardly an ergonomic design. Maybe they can hire a small child on a stepstool for people six feet and above?

As ND has predicted I will spend some words on the cheese bread. First, the cost is fairly high, at a buck a piece; secondly, something about the cheese blend they use here is off. I'm apparently the only one at the table who could taste it that strongly, but there is a strange metallic tang to the cheese, which just utterly destroyed my desire for the bread. I would chalk it up to a one-off experience, but I've eaten here when it was at the old location and it tasted the same then. Very sadly, they used the same blend for the hot Italian pie, though, as I will explain in a second, that's not the drawback it might appear to be.

One might have expected something called "pie" to resemble a more lasagna-like or baked spaghetti concoction, heavy on the cheese and with a density to it, but instead it's little more than a collection of penne, black olives, sausage, pepperoni, and their spicy sauce, topped with a smattering of the cheese blend and put under a heat source long enough for the cheese to barely melt. It wasn't horrible by any means, but I found myself wishing they'd added more sauce to it; it honestly was more or less bone dry, and without any cheese to hold it together I might as well have ordered one of the the bottomless plates and gotten some quantity.

On the other hand, their alfredo tasted nice, and the chicken parmesan was the best I'd tasted in a long while. It may be the case that there are a few other gems on the menu, but you might have to sacrifice a few visits to the god of the Doggy Bag until you find them.

  • Toasted Cheese Ravioli (5.99)
  • Alfredo Chicken & Mushroom Bake (10.99)
  • Soda (1.99)
I still maintain that it was a bust of Karl Marx and that the restaurant owners may be communist sympathizers. I'm not saying it had any direct effect on the quality of the food, but be aware of the proprietors' political persuasions when patronizing this pasta-ry.

I went to check their online menu because I'd forgotten the exact names of what I'd ordered (I was fairly certain that I didn't ask for Chix Mush Bake by name) and their prices are actually slightly cheaper at this location than what they list there. The salad bar was standard fare: some lettuce with random accoutrement and standard dressings. The toasted cheese ravioli was filled with a creamier cheese and jalapenos, so they were more like jalapeno poppers. They were nothing special and I agree with ND that you should just skip the appetizers and go straight to the entree.

The alfredo chicken & mushroom bake was a mix of button mushrooms, chicken, mostaccioli, and alfredo. The mushrooms were cooked nicely, firm with an almost sauteed flavor. The chicken was inconsequential with chunks so small and scarce that I rarely noticed them. The alfredo was good, but a bit too thick and heavy for my tastes. I would have preferred it lighter. Overall though, it worked and I enjoyed it. However, after spying what Mecha got for $13, I'm not sure I'd get it again.

  • Italian Soda, Kiwi Cream (2.79)
  • 3 Dish Combination (13.99)
    • Lasagna
    • Chicken Parmesean
    • Manicotti (red sauce)
    • Garlic Bread
    • Salad Bar
So apparently I won Spaghetti Works. This particular Spaghetti Works moved kinda just across the street from its older position and modernized a bit. I liked the old place a bit more, what can I say, I'm a sucker for old timey atmosphere and wood.

The kiwi cream soda was definitely kiwi and cream both, pleasant, but not amazing. Although it seems that refills were freeish, and I might have sampled around a bit more if I'd have known, since usually drinks like that are full price refills. I'll have to do that next time. Appetizers wise, the meat ravioli was the winner of the two raviolis, the cheese bread was okay but not amazing, oddly.

As for the main dish, it was their 3 dish combination. Now, on the dinner menu at that link put it at 14.49, but I'd swear mine was, on menu, at least 13.99 if not lower, as Maple mentioned, the prices are different. Like everything here, pretty much, salad bar (decent selection, reasonably fresh, don't know what those other guys are whining about with respect to the sneeze guard) and garlic brad (yay) came with it, but the thing that made everyone agog was the proportions. The chicken parm was a full sized single breast, not mushy in the slightest with good breading, and is probably some of the best chicken parm I've ever had anywhere. The lasagna had a lot of layers, was fairly dense, and still very delicious. No dried parts, cut pretty easily, held together well when cut. Both of these are things I'll get again next time I go for sure. I felt like trying the manicotti, and while it wasn't bad, it wasn't really my thing. As usual with cheese-stuffed tubes, it was a bit annoying to get both tube and cheese in the same forkful. I took half of the chicken parm and the lasagna home as leftovers, reheated a day later, they still stood up pretty well on the flavor front. Good job, Spagetti Works.

  • Meatball Sandwich (7.99)
I'm pretty sure I heard that the truck was a real truck. If you had heard beforehand that the salad bar was in the truck, you'd see it as you enter the restaurant, so it's not really that hidden. I thought there was more seating on the other side of the truck, but if not, it is kind of out of the way. I do agree that the bust is creepy.

In any case, as has already been said, the appetizers were just OK. I had to ask Mecha if he'd gotten some kind of pureed cucumber drink, because that's really what it looked like. I didn't hear what he actually ordered.

I ordered a meatball sandwich, which came on flatbread covered in sauce and cheese. I'm not sure I could have eaten it like a real sandwich, so the knife and fork were used. The meatballs were pretty tasty, and were actually quite soft. I got fries with it, but it seems you can get pasta instead. The salad bar is actually extra for sandwiches. I was reasonably pleased with the portions, but looking back at the $8 in my notes, it might have been a tad pricey, especially with a $2 optional salad bar. While not bad, I'd probably try something else next time. There are plenty of options, and previously I'd only tried the create-a-pasta bowls (which are great).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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