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Vinny's Italian Kitchen

Organic pasta from Barilla, along with organic vegetables and chicken, have been added to the choice ingredients used to create traditional dishes at Vinny's Italian Kitchen in Medford.

Since the restaurant opened in 2000, owner and chef Vinny DiCostanzo Jr. and his family have impressed more than a few diners with their cuisine. It's been named Best Italian in the annual Mail Tribune Readers' Choice poll for 10 consecutive years.

It's one of my favorite spots, and I've never minded waiting for a table along with other diners on busy nights. The addition of organic products is one more good reason to have dinner there.

My friend, Loretta, and I took a chance and arrived at Vinny's a little later than the regular dinner rush.

I don't recommend arriving late, but our hosts had us settled at a table in a jiffy. Glasses of ice water, a basket of bread and dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping followed immediately.

DiCostanzo offers cooking from his childhood home of Ischia, an island seaport near Napoli in Southwest Italy. Later, he grew up in New York, where his father owned restaurants. His family moved to the Rogue Valley in the mid-'90s and brought a sample of Italian hospitality to Southern Oregon. According to an introductory note on DiCostanzo's menu, that hospitality includes eating, drinking and whistling.

Wanting a girls' night out, Loretta and I started with a plate of bruschetta ($11) and bottle of pinot gris. The bruschetta was a delicious combination of thin-sliced, toasted bread topped with mounds of fresh tomato, onion and basil.

Appetizers at Vinny's also include fried zucchini, mozzarella or calamari.

There are a lot of yummy-sounding dishes on the menu at Vinny's, such as chicken or veal in a Marsala wine sauce. Other recipes for veal or chicken include Francaise, Parmigiana and picatta. Prices range from $15 to $18.

Seafood selections include shrimp, prawns, calamari and lobster dinners. Prices range from $19 for spicy shrimp "fra diavolo" to $64 for a lobster dinner for two.

Vinny's sometimes offers steaks, though they're not listed on the menu. Ask your server for information.

Pasta dishes include a variety of shapes, from spaghetti to rigatone, and there are 14 types of sauces. Choose any pasta with any one sauce for $15, such as spaghetti with Bolognese, an old-school red meat sauce. Or carbonara, a creamy cheese sauce with sauteed ham. All of the pastas are served al dente. Gluten-free pasta also is available.

Loretta chose one of the house favorites, the baked penne Siciliano ($14). I finally settled down on my favorite: spaghetti with rich, creamy Alfredo sauce ($15).

Dinners are served with soup or salad. Some a la carte dishes are available, along with open-face sandwiches and calzones. Vinny's also serves pizzas, and there's a children's menu.

Loretta loved her fresh, green salad with blue-cheese dressing, and my bowl of minestrone was hearty with chunks of crushed tomatoes, garbanzo beans and vegetables.

My friend also enjoyed the penne prepared with a layer of sliced eggplant and tomato sauce and baked in a gratin dish. My Alfredo was "delicioso."

We finished the meal with tiramisu, a heavenly Italian dessert.

We thought the food, service and Old-World ambience at Vinny's was a smash. We'll be back soon.

Vinny's Italian Kitchen accepts most major credit cards and local checks. Along with a well-rounded wine list, there also is a full bar at the restaurant.

— Laurie Heuston