top of page

Dinnertime in Garlic Gulch

Thursday and Sunday was spaghetti day

Rainier Valley’s Italian heritage goes back a hundred years or more. Back then, the Valley was largely forests and farms, with the streetcar running down the middle. Many of the area’s farmers were immigrants, and many of those immigrants were from Italy. In fact, the neighborhood around Atlantic Street was so heavily dominated by Italians that it was called “Garlic Gulch.” These Italian immigrants brought a rich culinary tradition to the Rainier Valley that can still be enjoyed today.

The Borracchini family opened a bakery in the Italian neighborhood in 1922, and their son Remo, still operates it. Remo describes the neighborhood when he was a child: “Our church was Mt. Virgin church. We had several Italian grocery stores at Atlantic Street, Italian pharmacy, Italian barbershop. The residents were mainly east and west of Rainier Avenue going all the way up to Beacon Hill. As far south as – oh, a little south of McClellan Street. We had the ballpark. We had the Vacca Brothers farm. And we had the Italian language school here, at Atlantic Street.”

Vincent LaSalle also grew up in Garlic Gulch. His family owned a grocery store and meat market on Atlantic Street. “On one side was the meat market. My uncle was a good butcher and they used to cut their own meat. They had this great big walk-in icebox. They had a sawdust floor. I remember in one corner of the icebox, they had a great big fifty-gallon barrel. And in that barrel was pickled pig feet. Oh, god! You never tasted anything like that. Everything used to taste so good!”

Ralph Vacca, grandson of one of the original Vacca Brothers, says that in his family “Thursday and Sunday was spaghetti day. You could count on it. It may be mustaciolli one Thursday and it may be spaghettini on a Sunday. It may be bow ties and it may be something else. But always, always Thursday and Sunday, in our household. And I would venture to say that if you talked to some others, you’ll get a smile, if you say, ‘Thursday and Sunday was spaghetti day.’ It was always good. It certainly wasn’t Franco American in a can, that’s for damned sure.” 

Vincent Lasalle:  “Oh, when they used to make spaghetti and meatballs at my grandma’s place. My grandma would mix the meat -- a combination of pork meat and beef all chopped up, see -- and put garlic and different kinds of flavors in it. Salt and pepper. She’d mix it all up and then [her daughters] used to take it and roll it into little balls. You’d have a stack of meatballs this big and they’d put that in the tomato sauce. Oh god! I never tasted meatballs like that.”


bottom of page