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Carlito's Way

A food truck promising a taste of Italy on wheels is making the rounds in the Rogue Valley.

Carlito's Way serves salads, sandwiches, pasta, flatbread pizzas and bruschetta from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the food cart lot outside Digger's Goodyear Tavern at 101 S. Riverside Ave. Evenings and weekends takes it to local breweries and wineries. The colorful cart has appeared at Opposition Brewing Co., Southern Oregon Brewing Co., and Grizzly Peak Winery.

The truck is the brainchild of Carlos Torres. (Yes, his mother still calls him Carlito, and he does appreciate the work of Al Pacino.) After 20 years working in food service, he wanted his own restaurant but saw the wisdom in starting small with a food truck. His wife, Claudia Morales, is a teacher, and she encouraged him to get things rolling this summer while she could help prepare and serve food.

Torres grew up in Mexico and considered selling the food of his childhood, but he decided to do something different after noting the proliferation of taco trucks around town. He also dreams of one day opening a taproom featuring local wines and beers, along with small plates, and an Italian menu seemed like a good match for that. After working at Italian restaurants in the Bay Area and most recently at Porters in downtown Medford, he was confident he could present the cuisine with consistent quality.

I stopped in for lunch downtown before the latest heat wave hit.

A Caprese panini for $7 seemed like perfect summer fare, taking advantage of ripe tomatoes and ample fresh basil. The sandwich was built on a delicate herbed focaccia, baked at Medford's Artisan Bakery, and included both slivered basil and pesto, along with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It was lightly grilled, just enough to warm the cheese without fully melting it, then drizzled with a balsamic reduction, a touch that Torres promised would add extra flavor even if it was a little messy. He helpfully provided extra napkins.

A house salad accompanied the panini. It consisted of a spring mix of baby greens accented with tomato, red onion and tiny crunchy croutons. A sweet basil vinaigrette loaded with lots of the fresh herb was served on the side. Raspberry vinaigrette and ranch are also available.

In addition to canned soda, Carlito's Way serves Italian sodas in orange, mango, vanilla and cherry flavors. They cost $2. I opted for orange and enjoyed the Creamsicle flavor as a perfect summer treat.

Look for Carlito's Way on Facebook to check hours and locations. Diners can call or text orders to 541-301-6760 to speed pick-up, a touch of service that will be appreciated on days both hot and cold.

The Caprese panini includes ripe tomatoes and ample fresh basil. Photo by Anita Burke