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Old-school meets modern at Northwest Pizza & Pasta

Amid the rise of artisan, wood-fired pies with unconventional toppings, there’s still plenty of appeal in straightforward pizza served in a classic atmosphere.

The region’s old-school pizza parlors include Northwest Pizza & Pasta Company in Ashland. Much more than pizza awaits, however, at the eatery set back from Siskiyou Boulevard just east of Walker Avenue.

An ownership change about eight years ago modernized the menu with higher-end salads, including Caprese and pear, walnut and Gorgonzola. House-baked buns and hand-cut fries highlight an extensive selection of burgers and hot sandwiches. Pasta dishes offer Alfredo and pesto sauces.

There was no sign of my beloved pesto-pine nut pizza discovered so many years ago at Northwest Pizza when I attended Southern Oregon University. But more than 30 types of pizza under the headings “family favorites,” “specialty” and “supreme” give patrons plenty of options. Prices run from $11.25 for a small build-your-own that comes with cheese and a single topping to $29.50 for an extra-large pie from the supreme heading.

Build-your-own toppings range from basic veggies to such items as Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and anchovies, priced between $1.50 and $3 each. Gluten-free crust and vegan cheese are available for an additional charge.

Because it’s always hard to decide on just one pizza, our group requested half Grizzly — pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms — and half Cam-Bam, a vegetarian combination of spinach, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. The 16-inch large cost $20.25.

And in keeping with the day’s major sporting event, some chicken wings were in order. We balked at the “angry” sauce denoted in parentheses as “REALLY HOT” and instead settled for eight simply “hot” wings ($9.95). The youngsters in our group contented themselves with chicken strips and fries ($5.25) from the kids’ menu.

Ten television screens aren’t the only diversion at Northwest Pizza, which boasts a pool table in addition to arcade games. Ashland High School Grizzly and SOU Raiders paraphernalia is prominent, and a gas fireplace enhances the overall vibe, particularly when groups settle in for an evening of watching sports and keeping pint glasses of beer full from communal pitchers.

Craft beers on tap are priced at $5 per pint or $16 for a pitcher. Domestic brews cost $4 and $13, respectively. There’s also a full bar and rotating wine selection. Ashland’s Grizzly Peak Winery recently was featured.

I skipped my usual glass of wine and sipped an IPA favored by the group. Lighter beer certainly does more to cool the burn of spicy chicken. These were a respectable representation of wings and drummettes, slightly crunchy with plenty of sauce and a side of ranch for dipping. They could have arrived a little hotter, but I didn’t fault the servers or cooks on such a busy day.

Overhearing a behind-the-counter conversation about the kitchen’s approximately 200 takeout and delivery orders, I knew a wait was in store for our pie. With the smell of deep-frying jo-jos permeating the dining room, it was all I could do to resist requesting a half-order of the breaded, hand-cut potatoes ($10.25), served with house-made ranch for dipping.

When our pizza did arrive, it was bubbling hot and nicely browned with a pleasing ratio of toppings to cheese and sauce, neither too sloppy nor skimpy. The Cam-Bam is one of the best vegetarian pies I’ve tried at one of the best prices, omitting the de rigueur peppers and onions, which make me cringe, and instead incorporating a single, higher-end ingredient with a couple of more common toppings. A half-dozen other vegetarian pizzas include Greek, Margherita, “sweet ‘n spicy” and Alfredo-sauced.

Northwest Pizza’s standard crust is a middle-of-the-road thickness with a slightly crunchy exterior and hearty chew around the edges. Deep-dish pizzas are available for an extra $2.25 for a small to $6 for an extra-large; diners also need to allow extra time. There’s also four types of calzone for $10.50 each. A lunch special affords a personal pizza with a wide variety of toppings, plus a side green salad for $7.95.

Offering online ordering at nwpizzapasta.com, Northwest Pizza delivers within Ashland only. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 1585 Siskiyou Blvd. Call 541-488-2080.

Find more classic pizza-parlor ambiance at Angelo’s Pizza Parlor on North Main Street in Phoenix and West Main Street in Medford. The 56-year-old Abby’s chain founded in Roseburg has locations in Central Point, Eagle Point, Grants Pass, Medford, Rogue River and White City. And the best pizza anywhere in Oregon — recently confirmed on TripAdvisor — can be had in a more upscale setting at Medford’s Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub.

Dining Tidbits

-- Eleven on the Creek has opened in Ashland at 18 Calle Guanajuato Way, the former location of Loft. A first-floor entrance next to the kitchen and expansive second-story dining room with decks overhanging Ashland Creek make this restaurant suite one of the region’s most unique. Owners Kevin and Andi Broadie promise a menu of fresh, local ingredients with “pan-Latin” influences. The menu lists oxtails in red wine, pan-fried duck, Spanish tortilla, epanadas and risotto, among other dishes. Customers also can expect creative cocktails and live music. The Broadies previously operated a Basque-style restaurant in Ashland under the name Eleven on First. Hours are 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. View menus and upcoming events and make reservations at elevenonthecreek.net. Call 541-248-4728.

--- Bring your favorite board games and sip house wines at happy hour prices all evening every Wednesday at Vinfarm in Grants Pass. The sister establishment of Wooldridge Creek Winery in the Applegate, Vinfarm showcases the do-it-yourself ethic of co-owners Greg Paneitz and Kara Olmo. The couple, more than two years ago, conceived cheeses and charcuterie handcrafted at their Applegate Valley estate to accompany wine flights at Vinfarm’s downtown location, 111 S.E. G St. The concept evolved into their hyper-handmade meat and cheese boards that boast crackers, condiments and fermented vegetables prepared in house and available for purchase in their retail section. Service soon expanded to full lunch and dinner menus; special, fixed-price, multicourse meals; and Sunday brunch. See wcv.farm for menus, hours and reservations. Call 541-226-2664.

--- The following Medford restaurants in January received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections by Jackson County Environmental Public Health: Joe’s Sports Bar & Grill, Krusty’s Pizza & Deli, La Burrita, Las Morenas, Lava Sports, Lily Pad Cafe, Limestone Coffee Company, Mellelo Coffee Roasters (Lear Way), Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Mr. Smith’s, Muchas Gracias Mexican Food (Rogue Valley Mall and West Main Street), Mucho Gusto Mexican Kitchen, North Medford High School Catering, Northwest Pine Apple, Orange Julius, Paisans Pizzeria, Panda Express (Delta Waters Road), Papa John’s Pizza, Pita Pit, Pizza Hut (Biddle Road and Center Drive), Providence Medford Medical Center, Purple Parrot (East Barnett Road and Stewart Avenue).

-- Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow thewholedishblog on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

An order of the chicken wings, made simply “hot,” but you also can get them “angry,” which is denoted in parantheses on the menu as “REALLY HOT.” Photo by Sarah Lemon
The half Grizzly with pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage, and half Cam-Bam, a vegetarian combination of spinach, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Photo by Sarah Lemon