Since her chef's apprenticeship cooking seafood in the Italian style, Zoe Lehmann wanted a "beautiful Italian restaurant" of her own.

Since her chef's apprenticeship cooking seafood in the Italian style, Zoe Lehmann wanted a "beautiful Italian restaurant" of her own.

Four years of traveling, eight years of residing in the Rogue Valley and three restaurants later, Lehmann and husband Ryan think they have the ideal venture in Medford's McAndrews Marketplace.

"This is kind of the dream restaurant; this is the one we've been working up toward," says Zoe Lehmann. "We're really happy that somebody did such a great job here."

The Lehmanns' Cicily's Pastaria & Grill eased into the former location of Kelton's Steak & Seafood, operated for nearly two years by Vincenzo and Virginia DiCostanzo. When the DiCostanzos departed a couple months ago, the Lehmanns took the helm, keeping Kelton's open while devising their own menu with new executive chef Stefano Cipollone. Cicily's unveiled its "authentic" Italian cuisine two weeks ago.

"I think our flavor profile is different from a lot of people in the valley," says Cipollone, who worked for less than a year at The Jacksonville Inn. The Lehmanns, both 38, hired the 31-year-old chef, who learned to cook in his Italian family's Florida restaurants, after receiving applications from around the country. Cipollone's proximity and expertise both filled the bill.

"We roast our bones ... just like Grandpa used to do," says Cipollone of making stock for the restaurant. "Italian food is about the ingredients."

"Stefano makes a killer cioppino," says Zoe Lehmann, explaining that the dish is served atop risotto in the northern Italian style.

Joining risotto are some quintessential Italian dishes, such as pasta carbonara, little seen in the Rogue Valley. Pasta isn't handmade, mainly because of space constraints in the kitchen. Because the kitchen also couldn't accommodate a pizza oven, the Lehmanns reluctantly scrapped their menu of pies but retained the arched opening of a brick oven for Cicily's logo.

"It was really hard to give up," says Zoe Lehmann, whose calazone are a mainstay of her namesake cafe, Zoey's, founded in 2003 at Phoenix's Shoppes at Exit 24 and relocated six years ago to the former Ashland site of BJ's Ice Cream.

The Lehmanns also have operated Mongolian BBQ in the Medford Center for nearly seven years and, with Cicily's, employ about 40 people. The Ashland couple's newest restaurant is named for their 3 1/2-year-old daughter.

"She's very excited about it, too," says Ryan Lehmann, laughing over Cicily's recent attempts to rearrange tables in the dining room.

The Lehmanns kept all of Kelton's furnishings and fixtures, including a well-appointed bar that stands to attract "happy hour" crowds. Playing into the popularity of small plates, Cicily's happy hour menu offers a mini antipasti platter for $5.95 or flatbread pizza du jour for $8.95, among other selections, from 4 to 6 p.m. daily.

The lunch menu features panini, salads and smaller portions of pasta at lower prices. Dinners range from $8.95 for pasta Bolognese to $23.95 for filet mignon with side dishes. The Lehmanns say they can be competitive with pricing because they're not relying on a single business.

Nor did they consider passing up the opportunity to claim the former Kelton's site, suggested by the property manager who knew the Lehmanns were in the market for a fine-dining restaurant for the past five years, says Ryan Lehmann.

"We're not gonna stop for the economy," he says. "We have faith it's gonna turn around."

Located at 1251 E. McAndrews Road, Suite 110, Cicily's Pastaria & Grill is open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 541-776-3500 or view menus at www.cicilys.com.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.