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The Grotto: A very original pizzeria

Friendly atmosphere, good beer and great food is exactly what you’ll find at The Grotto, a perfect place for those nights when making dinner yourself just doesn’t seem like that much fun.

Which is how my husband Adam and I found ourselves walking thorough the doors last Thursday night, after a long day at work.

The little pizza parlor, established in 1999, and under new ownership since April 2018, lives up to its slogan, “A very original pizzeria.” The funky decor has a bit of tiki lounge flavor, with surfboards on the walls, along with a random assortment of old photographs, my favorite being a young lady with a goat standing on top of a car.

There are also two big-screen TVs, which were tuned into the Blazers/ Warriors basketball game that night, and a couple of old-school arcade games to entertain diners while they wait for their food to arrive.

The dining room was full of patrons, but it didn’t seem crowded or noisy. Rather, the restaurant felt like a community gathering place.

“It’s a great family place — wonderful for kids,” said my friend, Angelina Tejada-Ingram, who also had decided to have dinner at The Grotto with her family. “We’ve been coming here since our daughter was crawling on the floor. The staff is so friendly. This place is awesome.”

The atmosphere isn’t the only great thing about The Grotto. What really makes this place is the excellent food. The menu extends beyond pizza to offer pastas, sandwiches, calzones, soups and salads. The restaurant also has generous offerings of beers, on tap and bottled, plus wine, sodas, iced tea and lemonade.

I knew I wanted a personal-sized pizza, but with so many options, I had a hard time choosing. I considered the Mediterranean, made with artichoke hearts, feta, spinach, black olives and basil over marinara sauce ($10), and the Garlic Chicken, prepared with alfredo sauce, roasted garlic, red onions and broccoli ($10.50), before deciding on the Shoulder Hopper, a veggie pizza with a name that made me smile ($10).

Adam chose The Grotto Grinder, a hot 9-inch sub with pepperoni, salami, Canadian bacon, sausage, black olives, onion and pepperoncini, topped with cheese ($9.75 for a whole, or $7.25 for half). We also ordered a side of Dough Knots ($4.50) and hot wings ($9.99 for a dozen) and two pints of Oblivion Blond ale ($4.25 a glass).

We didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive, the appetizers coming out a few minutes before our entrees.

The sourdough Dough Knots, slightly crispy on the outside and soft inside, were delicious, sprinkled with garlic and parmesan cheese and served alongside ranch and marinara dipping sauces. Adam raved about the hot wings, which he described as mildly spicy with subtle notes of vinegar and a strong flavor of roasted red pepper, complemented by crisp celery and creamy ranch served alongside.

The Shoulder Hopper pizza, made with creamy tomato alfredo sauce, spinach, broccoli and red onion atop a thick crust, felt heavy in my hand, but tasted light and fresh. The red onions complemented the crispy browned cheese, while the broccoli and spinach balanced the acidity of the sauce with their bright earthy flavors. While the flavors and textures worked exceedingly well together, I found myself wishing for just a touch more of the tasty tomato alfredo sauce.

Adam’s Grinder sub was decidedly flavorful, though he was a bit disappointed at the amount of filling in the sandwich. The bread was toasted nicely on the outside while maintaining a soft interior, holding the sub together well. The meat was cooked to perfection, and the marinara sauce added a perfect balance of garlic, tomato and spice. A country-style potato salad was served alongside, creamy and fresh with generous helpings of dill pickles, eggs and onions mixed in. The potatoes, some with their skins on, were neither too crisp nor too mushy.

After finishing our meal, we happily thought about what we would order the next time because we most certainly will be returning.

The Grotto is located at 302 E. Main St., Talent, and is open from noon to 9 p.m. every day of the week. Delivery is available from 5 to 8:30 p.m. in Talent and Phoenix, or via the Door Dash app from noon to 5 p.m. to Medford, Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. Call 541-535-3813 or see grotto-pizzeria.com.

Pizza, sandwiches, hot wings and more are on offer at Talent's local pizza parlor, The Grotto.