Bruno's Pizza & Pasta

Just when its tempting to believe that I've dined at all of the locally owned pizza parlors in the Rogue Valley, someone mentions one I've missed. So on a tip from co-workers, I made an early stop on a Saturday afternoon at Bruno's Pizza & Pasta.

The restaurant is easy to find. It sits in a small strip mall just off Crater Lake Avenue on Roberts Road in northeast Medford. It's a family place offering a clean, spacious dining room full of green, vinyl-topped picnic tables and plenty of light through large windows. A cabinet in one corner showcases photographs of players for North Medford High School's Black Tornadoes and some trophies. A big-screen television sits in another corner. I like the large-scale reproductions of vintage French food and wine posters that hang above ovens in the open kitchen.

Customers can order pizzas, pastas, calzones, sandwiches, soups, salads and breads from Bruno's extensive menu at the kitchen's counter. The restaurant offers favorites such as Canadian bacon and pineapple, a pizza called the Sicilian, a taco pizza, vegetarian pizza and others.

Bruno's touts fresh and wholesome ingredients, such as real Canadian bacon (not Canadian-style). Sometimes this meat is really artificially flavored turkey instead of pork loin. The bacon is real bacon, and the cheese is real cheese, according to the menu.

If you'd like to create your own pizza, there are oodles of meats, veggies and other toppings to choose from. Sizes run from an 8-inch mini pizza to a 16-inch extra-large.

I'd heard good things about the barbecued chicken pizza and the Owner's Delight. The latter is piled with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, linguica, sausage, olives, green peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and cashews — an ingredient I would have never considered a pizza topping.

The meatballs sounded good to me, along with the Italian sausage. Then some sliced, green peppers for a veggie selection and ... oh, what else? OK, let's add some of those cashews. I also opted for Alfredo over traditional red sauce. Then I watched as an employee hand-tossed the pizza dough.

I waited for the pizza with a pint of Gold Digger, an unfiltered lager from Southern Oregon Brewing Co., at one of the picnic tables. I couldn't help but wonder what kind of dish I had just concocted but hoped for the best.

Widmer, Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Ale also are on tap. House wines include chablis, blush and Burgundy.

While I sat, I noticed several young couples with small children enter the restaurant and head for the private party rooms available at Bruno's. I gathered from the pink and blue gift-wrapped packages in their hands that there was a birthday party going on.

The pizza arrived in good time, steaming hot from the oven. I expected a smattering of chopped nuts sprinkled over its top, but instead it was loaded with roasted cashew halves.

The meatballs and sausage were very lean, and each had a fine, smooth texture. I had forgotten to ask for extra cheese, but there was no need. There was enough gooey cheese to bury the toppings. I loved the Alfredo sauce. It and the nuts gave the pizza a distinctively rich, Italian flavor. I'd try it again.

The crust was just right for my taste, not too thin and crispy or too thick. It had a chewy, golden-brown edge to it. Extra-thick crust is available for an additional topping charge. Thin crust also may be requested.

The Alfredo sauce was so good, I began thinking about the pasta dishes. While pizza might be the mainstay at Bruno's Pizza & Pasta, I'll return to the restaurant soon to try the linguini with Alfredo sauce and the spaghetti with meatballs. All this place needs is a good bottle of Chianti or Brunello to become my new favorite Italian spot.

Orders to go are available at no extra charge, or call ahead and your food will be ready when you arrive.

"'— Laurie Heuston

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