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Baci's Pizza & Pasta

In its time, Bruno's Pizza & Pasta set the precedent for quality local pizza. Its successor, Baci's Pizza & Pasta, looks to continue that legacy.

Bruno's owner Stan Miller retired last week after nearly a quarter-century of catering to after-game gatherings, sports fans and on-the-go parents. At one point, he owned four restaurants from Rogue River to Ashland. The Roberts Road location, opened in 1989, was the last of his pizzerias.

Oren Ben-Dayan, who worked for Miller from age 16 to 21, purchased Baci's in Rogue River from Miller's son, Bruce, more than 10 years ago. After moving to Medford earlier this year, Ben-Dayan decided to take over Miller's restaurant, as well.

"Stan was ready to retire, and he wanted to keep the store running the way he did it, not only in the dining room but also in the kitchen," Ben-Dayan says.

While Ben-Dayan operates Baci's with the same business principles as Miller, the product is slightly different.

The sauces combine some other seasonings and are a tad smoother while the dough is one ingredient away from Miller's, he says.

Meatballs, ranch dressing, lasagna, sauces and breads, including the bread for sandwiches and breadsticks, are all made in house.

A friend and I met at the establishment on a recent weeknight to scope it out. If it weren't for the sign out front, I would have thought I was still in Bruno- and not Baci-land. For now, Ben-Dayan plans to keep the old floor plan and decor.

There's a spacious seating area with two group rooms and an arcade off to the side. North Medford Black Tornado sports posters, reproductions of vintage French food and wine posters, along with hanging baskets of artificial red flowers, bedeck the walls.

It was a quiet night aside from a table full of beer-drinking fellows watching the game on the large television in the corner. My friend and I grabbed a paper menu from the counter and took a seat at one of the two-dozen green, vinyl-topped picnic tables in the room.

Baci's hits all the Italian bases, offering eight pasta dishes, five calzones, nine specialty sandwiches, a salad bar and 14 pizza combinations. And if none of that sounds good, you can build your own pizza, choosing from 30-plus toppings mentioned on the menu.

After serious deliberation, my friend and I returned to the counter to place our order. She decided on the garden pasta ($9.99), and I broke from my usual barbecue-chicken pizza and chose the more exotic Mediterranean pizza. I ordered the medium 12-inch ($18.85), counting on leftovers.

Pizzas start at about $6.35 for an 8-inch mini and go up to about $30 for a 16-inch extra-large taco or "big meat" combination.

Expecting a bit of a wait, we tacked on an order of herbed breadsticks ($4.40) to hold us over. We returned to our seats to ponder our forthcoming carbfest while the Baci's staff went to work hand-tossing the pizza dough in the open kitchen.

Unfortunately, our breadsticks did not precede the meal but arrived at the same time as the pizza and pasta. Paper plates are delivered with the pizza, and plastic or metal utensils are available in bins in an opposite corner.

The Mediterranean pizza had a medium-sized crust, crispy and golden on the outside and chewy within. The crust withstood the plethora of toppings, including a thin layer of ricotta-based sauce, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and leaves of spinach. Gooey, bubbly mozzarella buried bits of chicken, and a dusting of garlic, dill and basil accented the top, adding a subtle but distinct flavor to the pizza as a whole. I argued the pizza was too cheesy, but my companion contradicted this conjecture, saying there was a fair amount.

My friend's pasta was pushed to the wayside as we both enjoyed the pizza and breadsticks. By the time, we got around to trying it, it was only lukewarm. We each only had a few bites and then boxed it up for another meal. The pasta was good, and I'll probably order it on a return visit when there is no pizza to compete with.

The dish touted a tidy mound of mushrooms, peas, onions, artichokes, olives, pesto, mozarella and a sprinkling of parsley on top of a large bed of angel-hair noodles. The pasta was served alongside a large piece of toasted, buttery, garlic bread.

During our meal, Ben-Dayan made a courtesy trip to each of the tables to see how we liked the food — a considerate touch, I thought.

I'll be back to Baci's, and my friend, who's new to the area, said she would too.

— Teresa Thomas