After 40 years as a resident of the District Nashville community, Old Spaghetti Factory announced last week that its landlord, LOFTS 160 Nashville LLC, terminated its lease —even though the downtown institution had rights to the space through the end of 2035.
The restaurant space had barely survived the horrific Christmas Day bombing’s destruction. Still, officials reportedly had intentions of complete restoration.
Some of the 56-member team had worked more than 20 years for the international Old Spaghetti Factory chain, based in Portland, Oregon. “The hourly team in Nashville is a group of fun-loving, caring individuals, that have come to work each day ready to make others happy. They help each other at work and away from work, they are truly a ‘family,’” Todd Saxey, district manager for Nashville Old Spaghetti Factory, said in a statement last week.
And though officials say they are looking to reopen in a new Nashville space, this particular blow gutted locals, who shared stories of meals decades back at the downtown restaurant.
“If I’ve eaten there once, I’ve eaten there a hundred times. Velvet playing his guitar outside. The purple barber chair in the bar. The virgin Colada’s/daiquiris when I was 9. The Caboose. The sausages & spumoni ice cream. I’ve had school trips there, friends work there & so many date nights there The Spaghetti Factory was my basic foundation of dining out. I’m heartbroken,” said Ryan Easterly.
Memories of sitting in the train car as a child, first dates in one of those canopy beds turned romantic dining interlude, and their love for the Mizithra cheese that could be bought by the pound were shared by many on social media.
Others remarked how the Old Spaghetti Factory was their preferred pre-game hang for a night of dancing, karaoke, and otherwise painting the town red way before tourists ever flocked to Second Avenue.
It was one of those places where the affordable menu was consistently good serving as a special night out in the “big city” without breaking the bank.
For most, it probably has been a long time since their last visit. Perhaps that’s indicative of the Nashville that has come to be.
The loss of such a cornerstone, though, opens a fresh and exponential wound as Nashville continues to heal from that fateful day. All the while, the rest of the world has moved on to the next tragedy of this seemingly relentless season in history.
This story is one of much greater grief than the loss of a single treasure. With continued anguish over what native Nashvillians thought they wanted out of their city, the Old Spaghetti Factory provides a suitable harbinger for the weight of it all.
As the dust settles, rebuilding, fundraising, and other things such a resilient community does in times like these, this could be the eeriest second chance in recent history to savor the specialness of even the simplest experiences. After all, it’s never too late to be the kid perched upon that old, musty train car.