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House-made is the byword at Martolli's Hand Tossed Pizza

When Mark Hedford and Brad Martell opened their first Martolli’s Hand Tossed Pizza in Sisters, they offered pizza by the slice from the beginning.

They now operate Martolli’s in two locations in Ashland — at 38 E. Main St., near the Plaza, and 1469 Siskiyou Blvd., in the Market of Choice shopping center. They sold the Sisters store when they came to Ashland in 2010.

The slice option is still working for Martolli’s, appealing to tourists looking for a quick grab-and-go bite, and locals with a short lunch break. A very large slice is priced at $2.75 and $3.25 for cheese or pepperoni, respectively, and up to $3.75 for a combo. Customers often pair a slice with a side salad and soda for $8, choosing from a variety of pizzas in the display case at the front counter.

They also sell whole pizzas. They opened the second location to ease congestion during busy times at the Plaza store. With plenty of parking at the Siskiyou Boulevard location, it’s easy to get in and out, says Hedford.

The two men have known each other since middle school in Portland where they worked at a gourmet pizza place as teenagers. They had always dreamed of opening their own pizza joint.

Fans of Martolli’s love the New York-style pizza they serve, with its hand-tossed thin crust that’s crisp along the edge but tender with a nice chew under the toppings — definitely foldable in the New York tradition.

They prepare their yeast dough from scratch and offer four house-made sauces: tomato, garlic-olive oil, house pesto and sun-dried tomato. They cover the sauce with freshly grated mozzarella and the toppings.

The menu offers four classic pizzas — cheese, pepperoni, margherita and Hawaiian. In addition, there are 10 meat combos, eight veggie specialties and a build-your-own option. They also offer organic gluten-free crusts and a vegan cheese option.

My buddy and I ordered three small pizzas — two as half-and-half — so we could sample some tasty specialties as well as a classic. It was a good excuse to have leftovers to take home.

Big Ben

John ordered the “Big Ben,” a combo whose simplicity appealed to him. He found the crust tender with a crackle at the edges, and liked the nice touch of fresh basil, added after the bake. I liked the flavor of the shiitake mushrooms and the light garlic flavor. The house Italian sausage was mild and well-seasoned. We both thought the sauce had a nice sweet/savory flavor. The biggest mistake a pizzaioli can make is to invoke the Kitchen Sink Syndrome and overload a pie with cheese and toppings. The Big Ben did not commit that sin, resulting in a well-balanced flavor profile.

We also ordered a half-and-half with pepperoni on one side and “The Ariel” on the other.

Pepperoni

Most fans of pepperoni will love Martolli’s version, topped edge-to-edge with large slices of the smoky salami. John and I, however, both are of the less-is-more school when it comes to pepperoni. Too much of a good thing can make the slice a bit too heavy and on the greasy side. It also may have made the crust a little flaccid. Our pizza was the small size. On a larger pie, it might not be as big an issue. Our tip: When ordering pepperoni, request that they go light on the protein topping.

The Ariel

This tasty veggie combo includes spinach, roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, shiitake mushrooms and a sprinkle of feta cheese, all on a base of pesto sauce and mozzarella. It’s a great-looking pizza with a tantalizing aroma. John thought the pesto sauce was a little bland, but I liked it. I didn’t want the pesto too forward. We both enjoyed the mix of flavors on top, including the slightly salty note of the feta sprinkles.

Our third pizza was another half-and-half pie, the “Veggie Classico” and the “Popeye.”

Veggie Classico

With a tomato sauce and mozzarella base, the Classico is topped with mushrooms, red onion, green pepper, roma tomatoes and black olives. The red onion adds a nice sweet-yet-sharp note to the mostly mild flavors of the other ingredients. The few small slices of roma tomatoes added to the flavor profile without making the pie too acidic.

Popeye

The Popeye is topped with spinach (surprise!), roma tomatoes, roasted garlic and feta crumbles. John and I both liked the taste of the roasted garlic. It was sweet, mild, aromatic and beautifully browned, adding complexity to the dish without overpowering it. Next time I order it, I’ll have them hold the feta. For me, it got in the way of the other flavors just a bit.

Prices for pizzas in small (10-inch), medium (14-inch) and large (18-inch) sizes start at $9.75, $14.75 and $19.75, respectively.

Martolli’s offers a choice of four fresh, crisp salads (small or large), all with their own house-made dressings. Order your dressing on the side and have it your way.

Completing the menu are six types of grinders at $9 each, calzones for $11.95, and focaccia with hot marinara dipping sauce for $6.95 and $7.95.

Wash it all down with your choice of soda, iced tea, a variety of beers on tap, wines by the bottle or glass, and a selection of unique non-alcoholic beverages.

Martolli’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. To order ahead, call 541-482-1918 (Plaza) or 541-482-1913 (Siskiyou). For more information, go to martollis.com.

Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

The Big Ben: fresh garlic and basil complement the flavor of the house Italian sausage. (Photo by Jim Flint)
Martolli's co-owner Brad Martell shows off his pizza tossing chops during lunch time at the Plaza store, one of two Pizza restaurants he and Mark Hedford operate in Ashland. (Photo by Jim Flint)