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Pork scallopini — pappardelle pasta topped with sauteed pork, wilted spinach and rosemary mushroom sauce. Mail Tribune / Rebecca Scott

Italian comfort food at Cicily’s Pastaria & Grill in Medford

Italian restaurants are all about atmosphere. Deep, rich paint on the walls, wood-grain tables, the sound of wine glasses clinking and intimate chatter. The world falls away while you share a meal with family or friends.

That warm, engaging mood is alive and well at Cicily’s Pastaria & Grill in Medford.

My mom and I were greeted by a friendly staff member as soon as we entered. An exchange of witty banter made us immediately feel at home. He seated us at a cozy booth and remained our server for the evening.

The menu is elegantly laid out with starters, salads and a wide selection of pasta, seafood and meat dishes. Our eyes were quickly drawn to the drink list since we arrived during happy hour. We each ordered the Italian Manhattan ($8.95), a mix of Maker’s Mark bourbon, Amaretto Disaronno, a splash of cherry juice and a cherry at the bottom of the glass. We both love Amaretto, and the drink hit the perfect note of almond. It was a tad too sweet for me but still a good way to begin our meal.

For entrees, I chose the Pork Scallopini ($.8.95) and my mom had the Olio Pasta Fresco ($12.95). A basket of rosemary bread preceded dinner. I would have preferred a stronger rosemary flavor, but the bread’s fluffy interior and crunchy exterior was excellent. Room temperature butter accompanied the bread.

Our meal arrived promptly. My mom’s dish was a combination of pasta, tomato, basil and fresh spinach tossed in garlic and olive oil sauce with Parmesan. She enjoyed the strong garlic flavor and bite of vinegar, which contrasted well with the tomatoes and basil. Some of the pasta toward the bottom of the bowl was sticky, as if the sauce hadn’t permeated the entire dish. Overall it expertly combined aromatic garlic with lighter, fresh notes of the other ingredients.

My pork scallopini was the best I have eaten. The pork was cooked through but still succulent and juicy. There was just enough wilted spinach to add a splash of green and freshness to the dish, which it definitely needed. The pork lay atop a bed of pappardelle pasta and rosemary mushroom sauce. The sauce was silky, earthy and coated every ingredient. It was perfect for dipping my bread, which I absolutely must do when I eat Italian food. Thickly sliced mushrooms were scattered among the pasta and spinach, adding texture and flavor in each bite.

Dessert looked tempting. My heart craved a slice of Italian cheesecake or spoonful of gelato, but my mind and stomach knew that would be more enjoyable during another visit.

Cicily’s offers lunch and dinner, with appetizers, salads and drinks. They also offer vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Cicily’s Pastaria & Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, at 1251 E. McAndrews Road, No. 110,  Medford.

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