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Old-School Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

This may sound like a strange question for a foodie's board, but I am seeking a place that has basic, fairly inexpensive spaghetti with meat sauce or meat balls in the Hillcrest/North Park/Bankers Hill etc. area. My grandmother just moved into the St. Paul's Senior place on 4th and Juniper from Temecula, and when we go out, this is what she wants.

After an expensive and not so great pasta with meat sauce at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza (because it was lunchtime, we were hungry and I had absolutely no idea where to take her for what she wanted) I thought I would call on the experienced folks here. Does anyone have a recommendation for a low-key and homey, not too expensive Italian American eatery somewhere around town? (Like "nine or ten bucks for a plate of pasta" not expensive.)

Molto Grazie in advance. I need to get some fat onto her bones and I'd rather avoid the Sizzler now that she is living in San Diego.

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  1. If you are willing to drive a little north to University City, Lorna's might fit your bill:


    1. It's a little far for 4th & Juniper but Nicolosi's in San Carlos would probably be what you're looking for. http://nicolosis.com/

      This is probably a wild card, but it's a heck of a lot closer to you than Nicolosi's. That would be Osteria Origano on 5th between Pennsylvania and ??? http://www.origanorestaurant.com/menu... Same owner as Trattoria Anitca in La Mesa. Not sure they'll have spaghetti & meat sauce but my guess is if they don't, they've probably got something pretty darn close.

      There is always Arreviderci in Hillcrest on 4th http://www.arrivederciristorante.com/ . There menu doesn't list spaghetti with meat sauce (bolagnese) but their sister restaurant il Postino on 30th does.

      Good luck on the weight thing.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        In the same area as Origano and Arrivederci (Hillcrest), Charisma Cucina Italiana has tagliatelle Bolognese ($14.50) on the menu. It's a cozy little spot with good pastas. Parking can be tricky in that area, however, which might not be good with a grandmother in tow.

        1. re: Katherine H

          What's your opinion of their red sauce. Is the tag homemade.

          1. re: Katherine H

            That's the old Chilango's space. I'd forgotten all about Charisma. Good call.

        2. Spaghetti Factory

          Soup or salad, spaghetti with meat sauce, bread, ice cream $11 plus tax and tip

          1. Di Mille on Adams is for me old school American-Italian food and worth a try

            1. She might also like the spaghetti ragu at Monello in Little Italy, next to Bencotto.

              4 Replies
              1. re: DoctorChow

                The vibe at Monello is anything but "old school".

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Agree. Mea upscrew. I didn't read the original post slowly enough to get the concept straight. But the spaghetti ragu is good there and not too expensive.

                2. re: DoctorChow

                  I have to be honest--I like Bencotto but am not that crazy about Monello--(not that Bencotto is old school either).

                  1. re: El Chevere

                    I was originally also suggesting the Bolognese or the marinara + added meatballs at Bencotto, but they don't offer spaghetti. And with meatballs added it would come to almost $20. So I edited it out.

                    Neither restaurant is old school, of course. Like I said to ipse, looks like I mis-fired. Should have picked up on it when I got to the "homey" part.

                    On quick read I thought "old school" was referring to the dish, not the restaurant.

                    Later I added a +1 to your suggestion as well as Alan408's and DougOLis'.

                3. You might try: Parma - Cucina Ialiana, 3850 Fifth Avenue between Robinson and University.

                  1. Maybe go down the hill into Little Italy and go to Filippi's?

                    12 Replies
                      1. re: DougOLis

                        I was also going to mention Filippi's, but didn't want any granades tossed my way. I really have a soft spot in my heart for their meatballs. Don't know why, but I really like them. Must be something primal from my childhood.

                        1. re: DougOLis

                          Success! I took my grandma to Filippi's today. She got the spaghetti with meat sauce and she LOVED it. It doesn't get much more old school than Filippi's, does it, complete with half carafes of wine from San Antonio winery in L.A. (I enjoyed a bit of the house white, myself.) Plus she has enough leftovers for two more meals, bonus.

                          My grandma was telling me she does not like the food at the senior home, and said "I don't know why they can't make normal American food like SPAGHETTI..." she cracks me up.

                          I've written all of the recommendations down and will keep them in the car for easy access for our outings. Thanks again you all made my grandma a happy diner today.

                          1. re: Shannon

                            That's great, Shannon! Glad your grandma had a nice meal out. But *you're* the one who made her happy!

                            FWIW, my mom never liked the food in the senior home she was in either. Her craving? Kentucky Fried Chicken!

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              my Grandma also loves fried shrimp. That's what she always gets at the Sizzler... :) I'll need to take her down to Pt Loma Seafoods I guess, to fulfill that need.

                            2. re: Shannon

                              I really think Filippi's gets a bad rap on this board.

                              It knows what it is, does what it does well, and makes no apologies for it.

                              Great meatball sub, too.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Generally, I've not seen Filippi's itself get a bad rap (other than the lines); what I've seen its pizza get a bad rap. It's very cheesy and greasy, which some people like and many do not (it is one of the few pizzas that I'll stop eating *before* I am full, because my gall bladder goes into full shutdown).

                                Interesting you mention the meatball sub; way back in the day I got one for a lunch at the Little Italy location, and I loved it.

                                1. re: RB Hound

                                  Completely agree, and was about to write something to the same effect.

                                  Never had a meatball sub there, but maybe should sometime!

                                  1. re: RB Hound

                                    I think their pizza is too sweet -- it's either the sauce, or something.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Yes. Or something.

                                      I haven't had Fillipi's pizza in a decade or so because I don't care for it. But last I was there I recall thinking it still tasted like 1970's-era Dominos-style pizza, which I recall well because I was living in Ann Arbor when the first one opened nearby.

                                      Fillipi's was the first pizza place I went to when I moved here from NC. Their pizza simply hasn't improved over time. Even Dominos has improved since then.

                                      But hey, Fillippi's spaghetti with meat sauce is a grandma-pleaser, and that's all that counts on this thread!

                                      1. re: DoctorChow

                                        When you have crowds like they do, would you "improve" anything, pizza or otherwise?

                            3. if you extend your criteria slightly to include Little Italy, your grandma might really enjoy the old school feel and flavor of Mona Lisa. Inexpensive, especially during lunchtime. Good spaghetti and even better lasagne.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: El Chevere

                                I really like Mona Lisa for its market but the restaurant is really bad. Went there once for spaghetti and lasagna and there are many neighborhood old school places in different parts of SD which are better than Mona Lisa.

                                1. re: honkman

                                  It's been a very long time ago, but I had linguine or fettuccine there with a tomato sauce of some sort (not meat) and enjoyed it. And it was inexpensive. Not gourmet maybe, but I definitely would have remembered if it had been "really bad", so IDK... El Chevere says he's had good pasta there too. Maybe you caught them with their spoons down on a bad day?

                                  Agree that it's a great little market. Shannon's grandma might enjoy looking through it even if they don't eat there.

                              2. Sanfilippo's is very close (2949 5th) very old-school and pretty cheap. Used to go there for lasagna when they had a great coupon deal and they were in a location a little further up the street. Was perfectly acceptable for the price.

                                1. Godfathers on Clairemont Mesa
                                  Etna on El Cajon blvd
                                  Filippi's in Little Italy
                                  Baci's on Morena

                                  Take good care of your Grandmother and I think that is so sweet..

                                  1. Volare. Serves up old school realness.

                                    1. Thank you SO MUCH everyone for all these recommendations! I'll make a list and keep it close at hand for our outings.

                                      1. Paesno's in North Park (30th and Landis) would fit the bill.