DETROIT – On September 27, a bizarre 30-second film appeared on Eminem’s YouTube channel: not a music video teaser, nor the opening verses of a new rap single, but a quick publicity.
In the video, boxes bursting with marinara sauce spin hypnotically on checkered tablecloths. A voice-over rattles vaguely Italian dishes: spaghetti, spaghetti and meatballs, and a “sghetti sandwich” – a ball of pasta pressed between two pieces of white buttered bread. Eminem, clad in a thin gold chain and eggplant-colored jacket, holds what the viewer can only assume to be two adults, their message censored by two take-out containers bearing the phrase “Mum’s Spaghetti”.
Marshall Mathers, the man who brought white working class angst to the top of the charts, was opening a restaurant.
Mom’s Spaghetti is named after the famous first verse of “Lose Yourself”, a single written for the movie “8 Mile” which sold over 10 million copies and won Eminem a pair of Grammys in 2004. The lyrics are suffused with nausea, do -or-die of fright: our protagonist is locked in a bathroom, soaked in sweat, washing a wad of regurgitated pasta hanging from his hoodie. “The knees are weak, the arms are heavy, there is already vomit on her sweater, mom’s spaghetti.” It was only a matter of time before the lyrics became one even.
Nearly two decades later, dining seems to be Eminem’s way of embracing – or enhancing – the joke.
On a visit to Mom’s Spaghetti in December, three months after the initial fanfare, the place didn’t immediately register as a sanctuary for a rapper’s career. Instead, I found myself at a little counter service restaurant tucked away in an alley next to the Little Caesars World headquarters. (Yes, the pizza chain.) I went through the short menu and placed my order at a cashier outside. Almost as soon as my credit card was wiped, a steaming, carbohydrate-laden paper bag was handed to me through the window.
Afterward, I was escorted inside a gastro pub called Union Assembly, where all the food served at Mom’s Spaghetti is prepared, to a small suite of bar tables and stools where patrons can. to eat.
This is where the Slim Shady aesthetic becomes apparent: most of the “E’s” on the menu and packaging have been reversed, and the kitchen is designed to look like a bodega around the corner. I settled into a cabin, already submerged, preparing for a long night in the afterlife of Eminem’s cultural empire.
Curt Catallo, 54, is the owner of Union Joints, which operates several restaurants around Detroit, including this one. He described Mom’s Spaghetti as a “real joint venture” between his company and Eminem. The restaurant first appeared as a pop-up store in 2017 and has since been a staple of the rapper’s various performances at the festival. (During the pandemic, Union Joints and Eminem’s Shady Records delivered the pasta to frontline medical workers.)
Mr. Catallo said the restaurant’s busiest times occur “after and before the game,” where staff pick up patrons from the pedestrian traffic passing through Detroit’s professional sports district. Spaghetti isn’t typically used as a takeout – the noodles take a while to cook – but Mr. Catallo’s staff make all the pasta a day in advance, then reheat the product in a pair of woks. He thinks this method gives the spaghetti a delicious, homemade texture.
“Today’s spaghetti will be better tomorrow,” said Catallo.
I had ordered the spaghetti and meatballs, which were served in an oyster bucket and topped with a dusting of snowy Parmesan, as well as a sghetti sandwich. It’s not Italian food, and it doesn’t try to be. Instead, it could be best described as… well, downright motherly. The fatty porridge of pasta, the sweet taste of red sauce; it’s the spaghetti that comes out of your pantry the last night before a trip to the grocery store. Mr Catallo said the noodles possessed an impenetrable remaining chemistry. He means this as an endorsement, and he should.
Eminem isn’t here, and we shouldn’t expect it anytime soon. Ian McManus, 22, who runs the Trailer – a merchandise store above the dining room – told me the rapper has passed the restaurant a “handful” of times since it opened. “He only lets a few of us know when he comes,” Mr. McManus said. “And he doesn’t let us know until the day of. If he passes, I’ll find out when I’m on my way to downtown.
A handful of Eminem-themed pint glasses, t-shirts, and sneakers filled the room, but the real piece of deed was in the back: Robin’s costume from the “Without Me” music video, locked inside. glass. The sound was the soundtrack for the year I turned 10; seeing a relic up close was like being in the Louvre.
Eminem is famous, and will be, for a long time to come, but it’s also been eight years since his last No.1 hit. Perhaps that is why it has been kept in a mini-museum. The rapper is entering this vexatious post-prime era that inevitably stalks all the hugely successful people. How should Eminem structure his third and fourth acts? Ideally with a little humor and grace. If Paul Newman could sell salad dressing and enjoy his golden years, maybe Marshall Mathers could do the same with spaghetti.
After all, the Eminem brand is still strong, even now. Misty Jesse, 49, and her 15-year-old son Romeo Jesse, who had dinner at Mom’s Spaghetti that December evening, told me they grew up with Eminem, which sounds confusing but is honestly totally plausible though. you do the math. “I saw it live in the old Detroit Tigers stadium,” said Ms. Jesse, who visited the restaurant from the Dearborn Heights suburb so Romeo could purchase Eminem gear. “It’s crazy how this all goes in circles. “
“She was surprised that he was one of the first people I started listening to,” Romeo said. “She’s happy that we were able to bond around her music and sing it in the car.”
The Jesses are locals, which makes them outliers here. Almost everyone inside the restaurant, except the employees, visited Detroit for business, pleasure, or a combination of the two. A trio of Atlanta listeners crowded around a table frozen with spaghetti sauce; they had only been in town a few days, and they had arrived at Mom’s Spaghetti out of passive curiosity – the same gravitational force that draws New York tourists to Madame Tussauds in Times Square.
Morgan Martin, 28, said Eminem’s 2010 album “Recovery” got stuck in her car’s CD player when she was in high school. For 10 years, she exclusively listened to this record while driving in Georgia. His friends claim that the experience allowed him to rap with near-perfect Eminem cadence.
“I’ve since bought a new car that connects to Bluetooth,” Ms. Martin said, “so now I’m learning more about her job. “
For her, Mom’s Spaghetti was a destination. “When I heard we were coming to Detroit, I knew where we were eating,” she said.
Her date friend Caylen Hemme, 27, was not told about the plan. “I had no idea this was Eminem’s restaurant,” she said from across the table. “I just saw they had vegan meatballs.”
John Farran, a 32-year-old service engineer from Orlando, had dined at an upscale Italian restaurant the night before. The experience, he said, pales in comparison to what Mom’s Spaghetti had to offer. “Their sauce was like soup,” Mr. Farran said, “besides, they didn’t give you any bread”. He then gestured to the piece of caramelized starch half-submerged in the noodles. “It made the whole trip for us, pretty much,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had to look forward to anything. “
“With all due respect to Detroit,” Mr. Farran said. “Big city.”
Mr Catallo, the restaurateur, said Mom’s Spaghetti plans to expand their menu. Soon there will be the Bolognese sauce, from a recipe Mr. Mathers tested. I imagined the rapper, whose career was once defined by rage and controversy, letting a meat sauce linger on his palate for a moment before giving him his seal of approval. Could Eminem become a last days Jimmy Buffett, bringing Mom’s Spaghetti to touristy areas across the country? He declined to be interviewed for this article, so I can’t say for sure.
But I can tell you for sure that on a cold night in Detroit, after swallowing a pound of pasta, I felt changed. Weak knees, heavy arms.