Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Night at Spagna's

by Allory Williams

Rain splashes angrily against the windshield as the little blue Cavalier winds its way in and out of the hills of Washington County. As the gray sky grows even darker with the coming nightfall, the gas light begins to flicker on. My stomach growls and I accelerate. According to the glowing GPS in front of me, which has been shouting directions for the last hour, I am minutes away from my destination. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with my car, but if I have to choose who gets to fill their tank first, I choose me.

“You have reached your destination!”

I pull into a gravel parking lot next to a small, brick building in a small town on the outskirts of Marietta. Through the rain and the night, it doesn’t look like this building would be worth an hour drive on an empty stomach, but a cultivated eye recognizes these holes-in-the-wall as potential diamonds in the rough.

That’s what I am hoping Spagna’s be as I run through the rain to the restaurant. It’s why I haven’t eaten all day –though I could find no website depicting a menu or description, what I have heard is that the only way to arrive at Spagna’s is to arrive hungry.

Immediately after walking through the door, the atmosphere changes. I am no longer in a small town, inside a nondescript brick building. I am in a chic Italian restaurant, possibly just outside of New York City or maybe even Italy itself. Jazzy music floats around the high ceiling and in and out of the arched doorways as the bartender makes his way around to seat my friend, Emma, and I. Within minutes a waitress glides up, all smiles, to ask what we shall be drinking. Why not wine? When in Rome…

As often happens in an aromatic restaurant, my eyes grow larger than what my stomach is capable of holding. Eagerly, Emma and I order an appetizer of fried ravioli and help ourselves to the loaf of bread dipped in olive oil the waitress places on the table. When the ravioli arrives it is floating in a steaming half alfredo, half marinara bath beside a large meatball and an Italian sausage. We devour the appetizer before the waitress can return to take our order.

After much contemplation from a menu boasting classic Italian pastas and raviolis as well as grilled salmon, tuna and veal dishes, I decide on the special of the day – baked spaghetti. Emma decides on the baked ziti. Our meals come with a basic house salad: mixed greens, red onions, olives and multiple dressing choices. While it sounds pretty basic, this light dish amidst its heavier counterparts is a light enjoyment.

About twenty minutes later, our waitress dances from the kitchen balancing two impossibly large, steaming plates like a comparative scale. She sets them on the table, checking to make sure all is well before returning to the kitchen. I look up at Emma then down at my unconquerable dish, still bubbling from the oven. “We should have shared,” I say as we lift our forks to the challenge before us.

Perhaps Emma and I should have shared, but sympathy is completely unnecessary. After all, who would sympathize with ‘poor’ me, for indulging in a relative cake pan full of hot spaghetti al dente, swaddled in melted mozzarella cheese and savory Italian meats. Or ‘poor’ Emma, for foraging her way through large ziti noodles bundled in marinara and mozzarella like a winter coat.

After eating our fill, it doesn’t look as though we’ve even started. Our waitress makes her way back to the table and smiles knowingly – I feel safe in assuming that this has happened before. “Boxes?” she asks rhetorically. I can only nod.

While waiting for our check and boxes, we sink into the plush booth in a euphoric mood comprised of wine and the heavy Italian cuisine. Our bills arrive; after ordering a glass of wine, an entrĂ©e and splitting an appetizer, my bill comes out to be about $25 with tip. Emma’s is about the same. A couple could easily eat here for about $50, maybe $30-$40 depending on wine or appetizer orders. Not a bad price for an evening trip to “New York” or “Italy.”

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