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Low price doesn't guarantee good spaghetti at OSF


44 Pittsburgh St.

By Aaron R. Prazan
Staff Reporter

A frugal friend of mine asked me to call her if I ever wanted good, inexpensive pasta. With the marathon fast approaching, some MIT readers will invariably have such a need. She being a reliable person, I took my friend's word and came to know The Old Spaghetti Factory. Located at 44 Pittsburgh Street, three blocks off Congress Street, the OSF is a ten-minute walk from South Station. It is true that the OSF is cheap, but for a reason. For those completely strapped for cash, I suggest Prego or Kraft over a trip to the wharf for OSF pasta.

Ironically, the OSF has been suggested to me more than once, and it deserves some credit. First of all, it is cheap. All meals come with bread, salad, beverage, and dessert for about six dollars. The menu is simple: spaghetti with a variety of sauces. There are also a few other pastas and meat combinations like Ravioli Chicken Parmesan.

Portions are enough to satisfy, but not overfilling. A huge dining room means little or no wait, even for large numbers of people. Also, the place has a certain railroad station charm to it. There is a high ceiling of thick timbers reminiscent of a 19th century junction. There is even a trolley car inside.

In truth, the building is a great place for a restaurant, but architecture and low prices are not the only factor that makes a place great: Food is the real life and livelihood of a good restaurant. With a menu consisting of mostly spaghetti, it seems like the chefs at the Factory can't go wrong. All they need is a spicy marinara sauce with a touch of wine, lots of garlic, and some good cuts of meat for fantastic spaghetti.

Instead, there was a watery, bland sauce with no character. It even arrived at the table cold. As mentioned, better sauce sits in the jars on Laverde's shelves. In addition, the included beverage I got turned out to be soured milk. It was replaced promptly with slightly warm skim milk that tasted only slightly fresher.

As for the other extras, I can only really compliment the bread. Crusty, yeasty, and served warm, the bread was uncharacteristically satisfying. Every meal comes with a salad, and the OSF has room for improvement there, too. Salads are extremely simple; iceberg lettuce swimming in dressing. Extra greens, more vegetables, or any sign of creative preparation would have been nice. Dessert was ice cream. I had Spumoni, a traditional Italian flavor, and it was decent. In fact, I could have enjoyed a whole bowl except the the dessert dishes at the OSF are shot-glass sized.

For a marathoner, the OSF delivers carbohydrates, but the food lover is sadly forgotten. In summary, The OSF is not recommended. I went with high hopes and was disappointed. It is possible that I caught a bad day, but the fact that such a simple meal as spaghetti went so badly is not a testament to quality. The OSF, therefore, continues the tradition of an eternal truth: "You get what you pay for." For better pasta go anywhere in the North End and leave the wharf to seafood.

Coming soon: Grillfish, Taki's, and the search for the best pizza in Boston.