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Rosario's Italian Restaurant

Authentic Italian cuisine and a warm family atmosphere greet customers at Rosario's Italian Restaurant in Medford.

Located at 2221 W. Main St., the small restaurant might be easy to miss without its street-side sign. I walked in for a 12:30 p.m. lunch on a Tuesday. A sign on a basket of menus told me to take one and seat myself.

I had my pick of most of the dining room and opted to sit at a small two-seat table by the window. The dining room was about half full when I arrived, and most customers were finishing up and leaving. However, there was a steady stream of customers picking up to-go orders during the hour I was there.

The restaurant opened in 1975 as an Italian deli, and the counter for pick-up orders is definitely a remnant of that era. Greens and reds occupy the walls, along with three-dimensional art pieces. It felt warm and homey. I felt comfortable.

After taking my drink order, the waitress brought me a small basket of garlic bread in one of those plastic baskets you find at many burger joints. The bread was obviously fresh and delicious. The garlic and butter spread was very subtle, which complemented the bread perfectly. I probably could have eaten a whole meal of that bread alone.

The menu features pastas, meat dishes and wood-fired pizza, along with a hearty list of deli sandwiches, a nod to the restaurant's origins. It was hard to decide what to order, as each dish sounded enticing. The sandwiches have apparently developed a loyal following. I overheard a woman who was picking up lunch say she has ordered the same sandwich since she was a kid. I definitely looked a little closer at the sandwiches after that.

However, I decided I was in the mood for pizza and picked the Rosario's Special, a supreme-style with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and red onions. A simple choice, but my favorite style.

The pizzas range from classic Italian options to more Americanized versions such as barbecue chicken and Hawaiian. They are available in 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-inch or as a calzone. Ten-inch pizzas also have the option of gluten-free dough for an extra $2. I opted to have it as a calzone for $11.79.

When it arrived, I realized I may have bitten off too much for my mid-level appetite. The massive calzone was dusted with oregano, garlic and, I believe, a hint of Parmesan. Cutting into it revealed a very thin and crispy top with a thicker bottom. It came with a side of extra marinara sauce for dipping. Rosario's website touts that everything is made fresh and from scratch. This fact was evident during my meal.

That first bite was bursting with flavor. The sausage and pepperoni had a good bit of spice to them. The orange bell peppers added a sweetness I hadn't experienced before. The onions still had a little bit of rawness to them, which I normally don't like, but I found them enticing when mixed with the other flavors of the calzone.

Pizzas and calzones often have the problem of being too hot when arriving at your table. The first bite for impatient diners can scald your tongue, making it difficult to enjoy the remainder of the meal. This was not the case with my calzone. It was cooked to the perfect temperature.

I felt full before finishing, but it was too good to stop eating. I had previously eyed the cannoli on the dessert menu, while perusing the dessert menu, which also features favorites like cheese cake, tiramisu and Spumoni ice cream. I decided that, with my appetite being beyond satisfied, dessert would have to wait until next time, which I am sure there will be.

In addition to dining and carry out, Rosario's offers event catering.

With a wide variety of authentic dishes at mid-range prices, Rosario's is definitely a top choice for Italian cuisine in Medford.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

— Ian Hand