In Central New York, there has been a long tradition of spaghetti restaurants, (spaghetti joints). They seem to have sprung up to feed the Italian immigrant families who came to work in the factories, and changed to appeal to American tastes. If you've seen "The Big Dinner", there's reference to the rival restaurant, that sold out and served spaghetti and meatballs, (in my mind I can hear Tony Shalub say "meatballs" with disdain). So its an American thing, but its good, so who cares.
The menu in a joint is typically limited. Spaghetti with a variety of sauces and sides; meat sauce, meatballs, sausage, peppers, mushrooms. There'd be a steak, veal parm, maybe chicken of some kind (roasted or parm), pizza, and veal and peppers. As I said above, the pasta is capellini or home made linguine.
You might start with minestrone, or chicken soup served with bread and butter. Next is a green salad, all iceberg, with an oil, and vinegar dressing with a punch of garlic and lots of salt...the iceberg is usually wonked-out by the oil and salt. Then comes the pasta with a bottle of chianti (in the straw bottles when I was a kid). I was always too stuffed to find out what the dessert was. Growing up, it was our big night out, usually wednesday...a cheap way to feed the family at a restaurant.
They are slowly disappearing as the American palate grows more sophisticated,and people are exploring the riches of Italian cooking. Growing up in Cortland I can remember we had The Lido, Comando's, The Little Italian Kitchen, The Green Arch, The Hollywood, Melodyland and I'm sure more that I have forgotten. The Little IK is gone and Comando's has gone upscale, and the Hollywood seems to have lost the recipe. The Arch, Melodyland, and the Lido are still carrying on the old time traditions with panache.
There are more in Syracuse, Aunt Josies, and Angotti's are probably the most traditional. There's Pronto Joey's, and I'm sure more that I've never tried.
Ahhh, there's nothing like a simple plate of rich spaghetti to take the chill off a crisp spring night!