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Emmy's Spaghetti Shack: Bad Spaghetti, or Just a Bad Night?

Zach Georgopoulos | Apr 23, 200201:48 AM

Because of my love of quircky holes-in-the wall, I'd like to say I like Emmmy's (outer Mission, SF), but I can't. I've wandered by a few times and have been curious, and someone (I think it was Celery) wrote a good post about it recently, so I thought I'd try it tonight as I was motoring by. I was just in time, apparently, to get a table without waiting, which was nice. However, after ordering, the wait was interminable. I figured I'd try the Spaghetti and Meatballs, since they kind of specialize in that sort of thing, and was prevailed upon by the waitress to try the beet and feta salad. As I was dining alone, and didn't care to make a night of it, I figured this was about right -- maybe 10 minutes for the salad, another 10 after that for the spaghetti (I mean, they make sauce and meatballs in big batches, right?).

No such luck. About 20 minutes into my wait for the salad, a couple was seated next to me. They ordered some marinated olives to start with, and the Spaghetti and Meatballs. Their olives came out immediately, at which point I'm thinking "I should have ordered that..." Another 10 minutes, and my salad finally shows. Excellent stuff, I must grudgingly admit, with some sort of creamy sauce and a sort of orange tang to it. At this point, however, I was so starved I ate the thing in about two minutes, which of course did not prepare me for the next 20 minutes or more of waiting for the spaghetti. I did my best, since none of the waitstaff bothered to ask if I'd like another glass of wine (finished the first with the salad), by availing myself of the lukewarm caraffe of water they so thoughtfully provided. The very good garlic bread (not the usual stuff, but rather a heavy bread with garlic baked in, and soaked in olive oil -- good), was long gone and I had nothing to read, so I contented myself by making small talk with the couple. I think they were on their first date and really didn't care to be all that friendly, but I persevered -- The Girl is out of town, and as far as I'm concerned others can suffer too...

Ah! The spaghetti appears! I leave the couple alone and lavish my attentions on the dish. Now I know what they were doing in the kitchen all this time -- overcooking my spaghetti! This limp, mushy batch of semolina was soaked in a sort of watery tomato sauce, reminiscent of many a cafeteria equivalent, devoid of any of the color that spice and simmering may have provided (it was essentially translucent). The meatballs, tossed on the side as an afterthought, did not seem to have ever touched the sauce and looked pretty darned dry.

Now, at this point, I notice that the couple on the first date, seated 20 minutes after I ordered, had, within less than five minutes of me, acquired their own Spaghetti and Meatballs. Is it me? Did I say something wrong? Maybe the establishment misunderstood my complex order, hence causing the delay. Or maybe it was because they took the extra time to boil my pasta extra long because they liked me so much. I decide to give them the benefit of the doubt and try the thing in question.

Execrable! Not only does it look like cafeteria food -- it tastes worse! The sauce, aside from being watery, was sort of sickly sweet. Except for the smattering of basil that someone had thrown on top, there was no evidence of spice or garlic. Since there was no grated cheese at the table, and only a vague tribute to same on the pasta itself, I contented myself with tossing salt on practically each forkfull of pasta. This went on until the male member of the couple next door implored me to lend him the salt since their table had none. The fact that he did not return it speaks volumes about the state of the couple's Spaghetti and Meatballs. The meatballs, at least, had a hint of oregano, but that's about all I'd bother to say about them.

Washing this swill down with water (the waiter had slammed the pasta on the table and left before I could ask for more wine), I did my best to finish, motioned for the bill, paid, and got the hell out of there. I do not intend to return.

Still, I'd like to know -- did I just hit this joint on a bad night, or am I completely wrong that eating Spaghetti and Meatballs should not be such an ordeal? I mean, maybe you can chalk it up to them being busy, but that's not all that true -- there were vacant tables when I got there, and there really wasn't that much turnover -- it was just taking them forever to get stuff out of the kitcken. Not only that, but it's really not that goddam hard to make Spaghetti and Meatballs -- and since fully 90% of the clentelle was ordering it, you'd think they'd bother to put some effort into it.

Sorry, but I just had to rant about this -- I can't stand it when popular places rest on their own laurels, regardless of how cool and funky they are...

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