Homestyle Italian — including pizza with crust made from 150-year-old sourdough — is what's on the slate at Granite Taphouse in Ashland.

Homestyle Italian — including pizza with crust made from 150-year-old sourdough — is what's on the slate at Granite Taphouse in Ashland.

Chef Christopher Kempf and co-owner Marco Traversa have designed a menu that includes lobster dip made with garlic butter, champagne cream sauce and served with flatbread; an organic king salmon burger with dill aioli on house-made brioche; and a heavenly tomato bisque topped with puff pastry, to name a few.

Don't look for a list of traditional pasta dishes at the taphouse. Instead discover such seasonal entrees as center-cut pork chops from Seaboard Farm served with sweet corn; rib-eye steaks served with house-made chimichurri and a sweet-potato mash; or chicken from Draper Valley seasoned with 12 spices and either deep-fried in buttermilk batter or marinated in vinaigrette and grilled. The menu will vary.

Kempf was trained to prepare traditional French cuisine, and Traversa hails from the San Francisco Bay Area but has ancestors in northern Italy. He brought the sourdough starter to Ashland from Naples.

Granite Taphouse is at 23 N. Main St. — on the third floor above the Ashland Plaza — where the former Hong Kong Bar was located. To get there, find the walkway between Red's Threads and Gold & Gems. Follow it a little more than halfway. An elevator to the eatery's entrance will be on the left.

The dining room and the bar — made elegant with carved woodwork and arched doorways — overlook the Ashland Plaza, and the tables next to the windows fill the fastest. Patrons can choose libations from many regional ales, beers and wines that are kept on tap.

We ordered a hand-tossed pizza topped with Parmesan cream sauce, chicken, port0bello mushrooms, caramelized sweet onions and blue cheese ($16) and The Ashland, a salad of mixed greens, marinated sweet peppers and little goat horn peppers drizzled with arugula aioli and tossed with goat cheese ($10). Two golden-brown goat-cheese croquettes sat atop the salad. The Ashland is served on flatbread, but we asked our waiter if we could do without ... thinking it would be too much along with the pizza. It was delicious served on its own as a salad, or it could make a light meal with the flatbread and a glass of wine.

The pizza was delicious. The crust was light, a little bubbly and had a delicate sourdough flavor. It's meant to be devoured as soon as it comes out of the oven, Traversa said. It gets a little chewier as it cools down. The taphouse's pies come in just one size and are large enough to sate two to four people.

When Traversa visited our table, he insisted we try the tomato bisque, a recipe he grew up on, he said. With the first taste of the rich, creamy mixture, we knew we'd return again and again to Granite Taphouse.

The eatery and nightspot opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday and closes at 2 a.m.

— Laurie Heuston