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An expanded, more stylish space for Downtown Market Co.

A downtown Medford fixture for nine years, the Market’s Taste Kitchen has upped the ante for fresh, healthy fare, based on seasonally rotating menus. When owners Nora LaBrocca and Brian Witter were forced to look elsewhere for a new restaurant — or close — they stepped up to the challenge of transforming the embattled Bohemian nightclub, with its dark, baroque interior, into a chic eatery that shows off the classic brick construction at 123 W. Main St.

Few restaurateurs could pull off a feat with such speed and authenticity. A designer for three decades with Ralph Lauren and Terra Firma, LaBrocca opened Thirrteen Mercantile & Design last year at 232 E. Main St.

LaBrocca’s fondness for natural materials, neutral color palettes, contrasting wood and metalwork with unconventional accents is apparent at Downtown Market Co. Its Old World bistro vibe gains just the right contemporary edge from a montage of vintage album covers framed in copper behind the gleaming bar.

Despite the Market’s dramatic reinvention, prices didn’t change in the move several blocks down Main Street. Panini, pizzettes and main-dish salads each are $10. Adding chicken to a salad tacks on $4. Soups are $4 per cup, $7 per bowl. Side salads and the famed baked beans cost $5 apiece. Ribs with a choice of side cost $13.

Guests have their choice of window seating on cozy couches and armchairs, one of dozens of well-appointed tables in the airy dining room and — soon to be prime real estate — an expansive patio with fire pit, bocce court and kitchen garden. Hours soon will stretch to 5 p.m., bringing Italy’s version of tapas. Think cured meats, sausage skewers and fine cheeses with fruit and preserves. Bound to be a happy-hour hotspot, the Market offers a full gamut of alcoholic beverages.

Serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, the Market’s eclectic array of dishes can satisfy any appetite. Artfully composed salads, light but flavorful soups and hearty panini and pizzettes are inspired by the seasonal availability of produce and LaBrocca’s culinary brand of Sicily-meets-Southern California. But the real mainstay since its debut a few years into the Market’s operation is its “porky goodness” — baby-back ribs and house-made, “Medford mud” baked beans.

Despite the Market’s dramatic reinvention, prices didn’t change in the move several blocks down Main Street. Panini, pizzettes and main-dish salads each are $10. Adding chicken to a salad tacks on $4. Soups are $4 per cup, $7 per bowl. Side salads and the famed baked beans cost $5 apiece. Ribs with a choice of side cost $13.

I’ve always appreciated the Market’s inclusion of whole grains in salads and was drawn to the “bikini salad” with farro, roasted cauliflower and beets, chickpeas, yellow tomatoes, Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. A few other favorite ingredients — mushrooms and leeks — beckoned under the pizzette heading. I asked my friend, a fellow mushroom lover, if we could split the two dishes. He agreed, and we each tacked on a cup of roasted tomato-basil soup to our order.

Arriving just a few minutes into lunch service gave us the pick of tables, and also a lightning-fast turnaround from the kitchen. I could hardly believe the speed — perhaps less than 10 minutes — with which food came to our table.

When warm weather bestows a bounty from the Market’s own back-patio garden, tomato-based dishes will be indispensable. The Market serves a classic combination of heirloom tomatoes, grilled zucchini, burrata cheese and basil dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

Preferring to eat soup as hot as possible, I tucked first into the roasted tomato-basil, only to find that it could have benefited from a few more minutes on the heat. Likewise, the pizzette wasn’t bubbling hot, but merely warm under its toasted exterior. I would have welcomed a few more minutes’ delay from the kitchen in exchange for higher temperatures on the plate.

I gathered that part of the short cooking time may stem from the Market’s use of a parbaked pizzette crust, which LaBrocca confirmed. While the Italian-made crust has a nice flavor and crunch, finished in an actual pizza oven, the short cooking time required likely contributes to a cooler end product.

Under such a generous garnish of arugula that it practically constitutes a salad, the pizzette toppings were a nicely caramelized, thoughtfully portioned mix of sautéed leeks, cremini and black trumpet mushrooms and brie cheese. A drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt on the arugula would improve the dish’s flavor and texture.

Likewise, the salad was underdressed and undersalted, in contrast to a massive dose of black pepper on one single tomato wedge. The ratio of greens to grains, chickpeas and roasted veggies also seemed off, with more of the former and less of the latter. Next time, I’d choose the grilled avocado salad with bacon, tomato and six-minute egg, which represents a better value.

When warm weather bestows a bounty from the Market’s own back-patio garden, tomato-based dishes will be indispensable. The Market serves a classic combination of heirloom tomatoes, grilled zucchini, burrata cheese and basil dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

And come June, we’ll make a point of visiting for weekend brunch, so popular in the Market’s former location that waiting up to an hour for a table was typical. The new, exponentially larger space still is likely to fill up but affords enough corners and cushions to make the interim more comfortable.

See downtownmarketco.com or call 541-973-2233.

Dishes at Medford's Downtown Market Co. rotate based on ingredients' seasonal availability. Roasted cauliflower and beets combined with farro and tomatoes compose this salad. (Photo by Sarah Lemon)