A few months ago, before COVID-19, I came into an afternoon breaking-news shift craving spaghetti. Near supper time, I asked aloud where I could go for the nearest plate within walking distance, and one of the editors suggested Sammy's Pizza & Restaurant on West First Street downtown.

It was fine advice.

Three blocks later, the crisp air that had my collar turned up gave way to the warmth of the pizza ovens. I've always enjoyed Sammy's pizza, and the greasy specialty is almost exclusively what I've ordered there. But the spaghetti pang was strong, and I ordered up a plate of it.

I didn't expect anything that would match their famous pies, but what I got I went back for a few weeks later — same night-shift scenario. Billed as made with homemade spaghetti sauce, it comes in a wide bowl and as a portion it's too much by about an eighth, which is fine by me. Sometimes I like to leave a little left on the plate for the way it tickles my sense of self-control.

The red sauce veers toward an acid tang, and that is how I prefer it. I can appreciate a sweeter sauce, but druthers being druthers, I'll take it the way Sammy's dishes it. The noodles aren't homemade, but they've made a good vendor choice all the same. The noodles seem thicker by a fraction of a millimeter than the ones we buy at home. They also don't soak up all the sauce, as can happen when Dad is cooking with the grocery store jars of thinner stock.

Instead, it's a complementary relationship with one swimming in the other. You can get the dish with spicy Italian sausages, but I've gone meatball both times now. You get two. It's a tight pack on the ball; they're each about the size of a clementine. I gobble those up pretty early in the process. In the end, I'm left to spin the fork like a jewelry box ballerina over and over until I get my fill. The viscosity of the sauce is such that it doesn't splatter. That is so key, too, because it means I'm sure to leave clean with a shift to finish.

It comes with the sort of garlic bread that sheds crumbs and flakes of crust galore. I wasn't offended.

Some final notes: it comes hot. That elevates a meal out for me. I don't want merely warm food, and I find that happens a lot. Also, it takes a spell from order to table, and psychologically, that's a coup. It makes me think they're doing something right back there, and not just ladling up a stale batch. Must be a fresh boil on the noodles. I didn't ask.

It'll never be Sammy's Spaghetti & Restaurant, and I get that. But I also now know where to go when my brain is telling me, "Dude, you need spaghetti, and you need it today!"

Sammy's Pizza & Restaurant

103 W. First St.

218-727-8551

sammyspizzadowntown.com