There are few names more beloved in Waukee than that of Alice Nizzi.
Nizzi, who died in 1997, owned Alice's Spaghetti Land in Waukee for the better part of 50 years. She's the "Alice" in Alice's Road and was known far and wide for being a bit of a character who made some of the best Italian food this side of Italy.
It shouldn't come as a surprise then, that people still hanker for her food. That's a problem now that Alice's Spaghetti Land is no longer in business. The restaurant, owned and operated by Alice's nephew, James Nizzi, after her death, closed in 2004.
Alice's Spaghetti Land was a Waukee fixture. What was your favorite dish? Tell us in comments below.
Enter the Harvest Moon restaurant, a bar and grill in the heart of Dallas Center.
For the last few years, Harvest Moon has hosted Alice's Spaghetti Land tribute nights. On the third Sunday of every month, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the restaurant reportedly serves items from Alice's menu made right from her own recipes.
What a nice way to honor a Waukee fixture, right? Not so much if you ask the Nizzi family.
James Nizzi said he and other family members have asked the owners of Harvest Moon to refrain from using the Alice's Spaghetti Land name.
Denise Kelly, owner of the Harvest Moon says she wasn't aware of the Nizzi family's opposition to the tribute nights until recently.
"The only member of the Nizzi family I talked to 5.5 years ago was Jim," Kelly wrote in an e-mail to Waukee Patch. "The restaurant had been closed for a couple of years already and he said it was ok for us to do as a tribute to Alice's place as it was only once a month, he didn't want us to call it by the restaurant name, so we called it a Tribute to Alice's Menu. Neither the name or their version of the recipe is trademarked we checked before we considered doing it."
James Nizzi says the tribute nights are an insult to Alice's legacy. Nizzi, who still lives in Waukee, said his family never authorized the Harvest Moon's use of Alice's name. Moreover, he claims, Alice's recipes were never written down, making it even more of a mystery how the Harvest Moon can say its food is authentically Alice's.
"It doesn't sit well with me or my family," said Nizzi. "They never asked us if this would be OK and I don't know how in the world they would ever get her recipes. She never wrote a single thing down. With Alice, it was a process — a handful of this and some of that. It was a lot of physical labor. I learned by watching and working beside her over the years."
Nizzi, who still caters using Alice's famous dishes, said he doesn't want the Alice's Spaghetti Land name to be tarnished by another restaurant serving an inferior product. Though he has yet to try the menu at Harvest Moon himself, he says he can't imagine it's at all accurate.
"Just from what I've heard, the food isn't at all representative of what we used to prepare," Nizzi said. "I don't want someone going there thinking that what they're getting is somehow associated with Alice's."
Kelly says if the family is indeed so unhappy with Harvest Moon and their use of Alice's name, she would be willing to change it.
"We didn't want to do it initially because that is not the type of restaurant we are...but we kept being asked by Dallas Center folks to do it so they could relive their memories of gathering on a Sunday together for some Italian food at Alice's, " she wrote. "We truly wish the family well. We don't pay to advertise this, it just is and if they don't want us to use Alice's name in the tribute we could change it on the website, but the story is the same on why we do it."
Fans of Alice's Unite
In the wake of the dispute, one positive has come of this — Alice's Spaghetti Land now has its own fan page on Facebook.
Posted Wednesday by a member of the Nizzi family, I Love Alice's Spaghetti Land reunites Alice's fans, allowing them to share stories and gather information on how they still experience Alice's mouth-watering menu made by members of Alice's family. By Friday morning, the page already had more than 70 fans.