Restaurant News & Reviews

Spaghetti Alley slowly serves up just average Italian fare

On one visit to Spaghetti Alley, my waitress wrote on my receipt, "Chi mangia bene, vive bene," which means, "Who eats well, lives well." If so, Spaghetti Alley will leave you living like most of us: not great, but not bad either.

Spaghetti Alley offers pretty much what its name implies: simple pastas and sauces in a family-friendly atmosphere ... in an alley.

Of course, it's Macon's most delicious alley, Mulberry Street Lane, the home of several popular eateries. Spaghetti Alley is in a location that previously saw two failed Caribbean restaurants. For the most part, the funky decor from those earlier ventures remains, with the addition of some homestyle-Italian checkered curtains dividing the booths and creating a more intimate atmosphere.

The menu offers a mix-and-match option of basic pastas and sauces for $7, with some slightly more complex dishes for a dollar more. Extra veggies, meat or seafood can be added for $1 to $3. Warning to those with dietary restrictions for religious or other reasons: The meatballs contain pork.

This is reasonably-priced food if you're feeding a family, especially since the kids' portions run only $3.79 with a beverage. But for an adult, well, let's stop and think about paying $7 for spaghetti with marinara sauce. For more sophisticated Italian dishes, you want to forego this spot in favor of Luigi's, which is only slightly pricier, or even Carrabba’s.

But Spaghetti Alley has its virtues. A delicious hot rosemary bread, similar to a soft ciabatta, precedes your meal, and they keep it coming. While you wait, the kids can exercise their artistic skills on the butcher-paper tablecloths with crayons provided.

It's good that this entertainment is provided because it takes forever for food to arrive if you eat during anything approaching the normal lunch hour. The management seems to be skimping on staff: The three times I've been, there appeared to be no busboys and no hostess. The friendly and attentive wait staff obviously tries hard but is run ragged.

The result is that you may stand at the door waiting to be seated for some time before anyone notices you, and even when a table comes open, you may not be seated for another 10 minutes. The situation may be better at dinner; I have only eaten lunch there.

The kitchen is slow, too. There is no way it should take more than half an hour to cook spaghetti with alfredo sauce. (The food is so hot that I doubt the wait staff is at fault for the slow delivery.)

The best dish we tried was the cheese ravioli served in a vodka-tomato cream sauce with fresh basil. The marinara sauce is good too; it tastes strongly of tangy tomatoes and clings to the pasta well. The food is served piping hot and the sauces seem very fresh.

Neither the pesto sauce nor the carbonara were authentic versions of the two. The pesto was like an alfredo sauce with enough pesto base mixed in to make it pale green, and the carbonara was an alfredo sauce with bacon. Nevertheless, the carbonara dish was rich and enjoyable paired with cheese tortellini, mushrooms and sweet peas. (I can't recommend the pesto.)

Spaghetti Alley offers a nice variety of wines and American and imported beers, although they are pricey (example: $3.75 for bottom-line domestic beers such as Coors Light).

Overall, the restaurant seems to offer key elements that appeal to both adults and kids. But if you're looking for a quick workday lunch with grown-ups, both your watch and your taste buds may be happier elsewhere.

Spaghetti Alley575 Mulberry Street LaneTwo and a half starsPhone: 742-5555Hours: Lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m.Payment: Major credit cards accepted, no checks.Price: $3.79 for kids' meals with drink, $7-11 for adult entrees. Take-away offered and platters of pasta for $34 to $39. Reservations: Yes. Please call ahead for parties of 10 or more. Dress: CasualChildren's menu: YesVegetarian selections: Yes (a nice array)Wheelchair accessible: YesNoise level: ModerateLatest health code rating: 90 Alcohol: Yes

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