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That’s amore!

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Three local pizzeria owners talk about secrets that make their pies special
Customers enjoy a pizza dinner at Jackson Creek Pizza in Medford. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Customers place their order at Jackson Creek Pizza in Medford. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
David Kostuchowski makes a pizza at Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Marilyn and Todd Strand sit down to lunch at Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Pizza is clearly one of the world’s most popular foods.

Jeffrey Miller, a professor in hospitality management at Colorado State University, says most Americans eat it at least once a week, and estimates 350 slices are consumed every second in the U.S. alone.

In the Rogue Valley, pizza runs the gamut from traditional to gourmet and everything in between, served up by small local establishments and giant national chains.

But according to Kristi Haavig, co-owner of Kaleido-scope Pizzeria and Pub, Medford wasn’t always a pizza paradise.

Haavig, her husband, Jake Allmaras, and his son, Ben, worked in the pizza business in Alaska for years before setting up shop in Medford 18 years ago.

They toured Bend and Portland before choosing the Rogue Valley as their home. They cited the area’s weather and friendly people as reasons to stay, but after trying all of the pizza places around town, they decided Med-ford could use their skills.“

Medford was a pizza desert,” Haavig said.

The key ingredients are made fresh daily, Ben said. That includes the hand-tossed dough baked in a stone oven, along with sauces made from scratch.

“And you’ve got to get darn good people to put it together,” Ben said.

His father added that Kaleidoscope wants to be known for offering pizza you won’t find on any other menu.

The menu is extensive, with toppings such as teriyaki-glazed pork, chorizo, artichoke hearts, feta, pepperoncini, blackened chicken, bacon, Tillamook cheddar, smoked ham and lots more, served in a dizzy-ing array of combinations.

And there are more specialty pizzas to come, Ben said, including one with Brussels sprouts, bacon and Alfredo sauce. He is also looking forward to the debut of a pie with pears, Gorgonzola cheese, onions, candied walnuts and balsamic vinegar.

The vision for Kaleidoscope from the beginning was to have a full-service restaurant specializing in gourmet pizza and salads.

“We don’t try to be all things to all people, but we like to say ‘yes’ to our customers as much as we can,” Jake said. “We really do try to set ourselves apart from not only other pizza restaurants, but all the restaurants in Medford.”

Inside, Kaleidoscope offers arcade games, several big-screen televisions, and local art on the walls, including blown glass from Grants Pass. The light fixtures above each table are handmade, as well.

The Grotto Pizzeria in Talent is another shop with its own identity.

Anthony Mouyios bought the restaurant nearly five years ago. He had managed The Grotto for a previous owner and helped to create the first menu.

“My hands have been in this place since it opened 20 years ago,” Mouyios said.

One of the things that sets its pies apart is a sourdough starter from Naples, Italy, that is used in its crusts.

“In my opinion, Naples has some of the best pizza around, so I’ve been absolutely stoked with it ever since,” Mouyios said. “This (starter) has been the best one I’ve ever seen. It’s lasted for 20 years, it’s got excel-lent flavor, and that’s the whole basis of all of our dough here.”

It’s a big part of what makes The Grotto unique.

“You can’t open a book and find our recipe,” Mouyios said. “When you bite into it, you get a nice, dense, sea-salty flavor. You don’t see a lot of crust left on the plate.”

The Grotto’s pizza menu includes the classic margherita, which includes tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil. And for more all-American flavor palates there’s The Widow Maker — topped with several meats, bell pepper, onion, black olives and jalapenos.

“They’re the number ones,” Mouyios said, describing margherita as “fantastic” and Widow as “jazzed up” compared to other pies.

The Grotto’s menu includes fresh soups, salads, pastas and sandwiches.

“Our menu has probably doubled,” Mouyios said. “If somebody doesn’t like sourdough crust, for instance, I want them to still be able to come to my restaurant. ... But you’re not going to find hamburgers here.”

Another popular spot is Jackson Creek Pizza in Medford.

A little more than 20 years ago, Tim Stone was tossing pizza dough in Seattle and dreaming of opening his own place.

That opportunity came in 2002, after his dad, Tom Stone, moved to Medford. Tom found a spot on West Main Street that used to be a Little Caesars.

“We had decided that was it. Let’s do our own thing,” Tim said. “It was going to be a lot cheaper to open a restaurant here than it would be in Seattle.”

The junior Stone transformed that “tiny” location into Jackson Creek Pizza.

“Our customers came right away,” Stone said. “It’s one thing when your mom, dad and cousin frequent your business, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.”

Jackson Creek Pizza initially had a huge menu but has since whittled it down, he said. The old menu is now the “secret menu,” with selections that include The Buffalo Girl, with grilled chicken and wing sauce.

The current menu includes the Greek-themed Athens Delight, the Mexican-inspired Taco Pie and the southwestern Texas Twister.

“(Customers can expect) a hand-tossed crust — not too thin, not too thick. Just a perfect blend,” Stone said. “I don’t know how to explain it, exactly. The taste speaks for itself.”

Jackson Creek offers sandwiches and salads, too.

On Jan. 1, Jackson Creek moved from the Albertsons Shopping Center in west Medford to a new location on Biddle Road. The business also occupies a smaller spot off of Delta Waters Road.

“We just try to make you feel like you’re at your friend’s house,” Stone said.Overall, he is happy about the brand he has built with Jackson Creek Pizza.

“No one else has pizza like ours anywhere,” Stone said.

Click here to read the 2022 edition of Our Valley.