Over the years, our menu has remained static. Our unofficial motto has always been “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and just about every item on our menu has its share of fans. The spaghetti is one of the most popular items on our menu, and the source of one of Floye’s favorite food stories. It is an item that stands out for its subtlety: the main ingredients are olive oil, garlic, ground beef, celery, basil, oregano, and parsley. Only small amounts of tomato sauce and tomato paste are used, resulting a flavor that complements that of the ground beef perfectly, without overwhelming it. There are no fancy ingredients, just a collection of basic spices with a small hint of tomato.
It originated with Major Gruber, a regular customer of ours during World War II. A Mordecai resident and friend to John and Floye, Gruber worked at the Army’s downtown Raleigh recruiting station. The Major actually used meatballs in his version of the recipe (which he had picked up during his tour of duty in Italy), which he introduced to John and Floye at his home one night. Needless to say, Mr. & Mrs. D were big fans, and the dish found its way onto the menu soon thereafter.
At the time, the Mecca had a contract with the Army to feed lunch to the new enlistees.* As a result, our spaghetti was used to feed hundreds of men going off to war, 70 years and 13 presidents ago. True to our form, we haven’t changed a thing about the dish. It remains simple and hearty, with a side salad and small piece of garlic bread. And no frills.
* Bob Scott used to quip that he always hated eating at the Mecca because it was the last place he went to eat before he enlisted. He was, of course, a regular.