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Nino's Pizzeria

A new pizzeria is making a go of it in a west Medford strip-mall location that previously has dished up tacos, burgers and pizza.

Nino's Pizzeria opened last month in the space that housed Tacos & Pollos and Eddy's Almost Famous Pizza and Burgers.

Red-checked cloths brighten tables in the middle of the tidy restaurant. Wooden booths line the walls, decorated with prints of Italy.

The menu focuses on pizza, hoagies, wings and fries, simple things owner Nino Calabro knows well.

He moved to Medford from Pittsburgh to spend more time with his granddaughter and help out his son, who is a single dad. He had a diner and a bar in Pennsylvania, and his pizzeria experience dates back to his childhood hanging around his aunt Rose's operation.

"I've been around a pizzeria since I was 8 years old," Calabro said, recalling how his aunt kneaded dough by hand because she didn't have a mixer.

Calabro said he mixes his dough fresh daily, makes all his own sauces and strives to use local ingredients when possible.

My husband and I stopped at Nino's for a midday round of wings and pizza.

Nino's offers eight specialty pies, all priced at $18 for a 16-inch large and $21 for an 18-inch family size. We quickly settled on a vegetarian pizza dubbed the Giardino.

Diners also can build their own two-topping pie with prices ranging from $8 to $18, depending on size, or make it a calzone for $8.95. Pile on extra toppings for $1 each.

Ordering wings brought even more decisions, with the choice between 13 sauces including lemon-pepper, pesto and garlic-basil in addition to more common buffalo, barbecue, teriyaki and sweet-and-sour options. We opted for the spicy Vesuvius wings.

The wings that came out were no mere bar snack. These were whole chicken wings daubed with a thick, mahogany-colored sauce. Calabro said the "monster wings" are an introductory offer, and he plans to serve traditional, smaller wing pieces for $5.95 a half-dozen or $9.95 a dozen. The bigger ones will cost an additional $3 per order.

Size might not matter with a sauce this tasty. While Calabro will say only that the Vesuvius sauce has "a little of this, a little of that," it delivers complex layers of heat, fruitiness and slightly smoky depth from a variety of chilies, reminiscent of a good molé. That was a specialty of Tacos & Pollos, so maybe the Mexican restaurant left a secret recipe behind when it closed.

The pizza arrived moments after the wings did. The crust was crisp and almost crackerlike on the bottom, but thick enough to have a chewy midsection, too.

The white garlic sauce was rich and flavorful. While my husband greets the garlic sauce on most vegetarian pizzas with a grimace, he said he didn't mind not specifying red sauce on this one. A traditional red sauce also is available, and we will order that next time.

The melange of vegetables baked into the sauce and cheese included mushrooms, olives, peppers and artichoke hearts. A generous portion of chopped tomato was sprinkled on after the pizza came out of the oven. It all tasted fresh.

Nino's hopes to court South Medford High School students with a $3 lunch special of a slice and a soda, as well as a $5.99 daily deal of all-you-can-eat pizza by the slice.

It also should be popular with families looking for a reasonably priced meal in the neighborhood. Delivery is free in west Medford, and drivers will travel farther for a small fee, Calabro said. The pizzeria is open late, too.

Nino's has fountain sodas and plans to apply for a license to serve beer and wine. It takes all major credit cards, but no checks.

— Anita Burke