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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

NEW YORK SPAGHETTI HOUSE

NEW YORK SPAGHETTI HOUSE

The NEW YORK SPAGHETTI HOUSE had the longest run for a family operated restaurant in Cleveland. Mario and Maria Brigotti opened the restaurant at 2173 E. 9th Street in 1927 after moving to Cleveland from New York City. They patterned the restaurant after the basement spaghetti houses Mario Brigotti worked in as a waiter in New York. The building housing the restaurant was built in 1870 as the parsonage of the Zion Lutheran Church and is a landmark structure. In the early 1900s a vaudeville theater bought the church and housed its actors in the parsonage.

The restaurant opened across the street from the Empire Theater, where W.C Fields and Jimmy Durante were doing their vaudeville acts. Both Fields and Durante, along with Red Skeleton and Mickey Rooney, frequented the New York Spaghetti House. Early on the restaurant also catered to the Turkish and Greek residents who lived in the surrounding neighborhood, providing the restaurant with an ambience of a Turkish coffee house as the customers drank Turkish coffee and smoked Turkish cigarettes and hookahs. The restaurant quickly became known for its big bowls of spaghetti topped with the restaurant's own "brown sauce."

In the late forties, Marino Brigotti came from Rome, Italy to work for his brother at the restaurant. He became a cook and eventually served as head chef at the restaurant before retiring in 1985. In the 1950s, Mario turned over the restaurant to his son, James Brigotti, who owned the restaurant until it closed it doors.

Throughout its run, the restaurant combined art with its dining experience. In the 1930s, Mario Brigotti commissioned numerous art deco still lifes for his lower dining room. In 1956 James Brigotti had these replaced with murals from John Cgosz, a Budapest-born painter who died in 1969. The murals depicted scenes of Florence, the Coliseum in Rome, gondoliers in Venice, the harbor at Naples, and the island of Capri. The paintings complemented the wood paneled walls and the red-and-white-checked tablecloths, giving the restaurant an "old-country" feel. In 1987 Patricia Brigotti, James Brigotti's wife, opened an art gallery in a renovated upstairs dining area of the restaurant, creating a highly respected professional art showplace.

In the summer of 1999, the Brigotti's opened up a second location for the restaurant in Westlake in hopes of attracting customers who avoided downtown because of the difficulties with parking. The new restaurant faced stiff competition from other chain Italian restaurants and closed after only a year of operation. In January 2001, after a 74 year run, James Brigotti decided to close the downtown location.