A Flurry of Fun - Ashland is Base Camp - Winter '24 Issue

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Three Decades and Counting


Three Decades and Counting

Macaroni’s Ristorante and Martino’s Lounge

Story by Leslee Ryerson

Photography by Ezra Marcos


Marty Morlan is sort of surprised with his iconic status. When he fell into the restaurant business some 35 years ago, he had no real plan to stay in it forever. He must be doing something right, though, for Macaroni’s Ristorante and Martino’s Lounge has lasted 31 years and is still going strong. When inquiring about his longevity and success, Marty quickly and humbly gives credit to his mentor, his landlord, and especially his amazing staff—some of who have been with him basically from the beginning.

Originally from Portland, Marty came to Ashland to attend college. Like a lot of college kids, he found work at a long-gone Medford restaurant, Mr. Steak. Enjoying the work at the steak house, he found a job closer to school in Ashland, at Beasy’s Backroom. Ashland fixture and prolific restauranteur, Beasy McMillian, took Marty under his wing, mentoring him to a point where Marty wanted to become a business partner. When 58 E. Main Street in Ashland became available, they jumped on the opportunity. Marty wanted an Italian restaurant, so Beasy came up with the name Macaroni’s Ristorante, derived from the Italian vernacular, where macaroni is a term for pasta in general.

A couple of years into the venture, the owners the building Allan Sandler and Sallie Rose Sandler had visions of their own. They wanted to expand the restaurant into a second story upstairs space. The Sandlers remodeled the building, adding a second story. They added a gorgeous zebra wood bar, more dining space, and a balcony overlooking E. Main Street, which allowed even more dining space. A backdoor patio was built for dining al fresco. It doesn’t hurt that Martino’s is located just off the brick plaza of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It created a sort of a built-in funnel for OSF patrons and staff. All season long, dinner before a show or drinks after, a steady stream of customers enjoy themselves at Martino’s. Many an after party has been held at the Lounge, as well as countless special occasion dinners both upstairs and down. Between the festival actors and tourists, you might be surprised what famous people you might see dining there.

In a small town, location and atmosphere will only get you so far—so for a restaurant to last decades, you know they have to have great food and drinks. Over the years, chefs coming through the ranks have left their own small touches to the menu, adding items or slightly improving old favorites. One dish that has stood the test of time, is Macaroni’s classic Caesar Salad which can be served as a side, an entrée, or family style. There’s also a classic mixed greens salad and a beautiful, warm beet and bacon salad with mixed greens, goat cheese and house made vinaigrette. Authentic Minestrone soup is a must have, and there’s a great selection of hearth-style pizzas, calzones. Everything is made with the freshest of ingredients.

Fettucine Carbonara is a fan favorite, featuring Applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, sweet peas, parmesan, in an egg yolk cream sauce. For those who can’t decide between red sauce and cream sauce, Marty highly recommends the chicken or eggplant parmesan. The crispy parmesan breaded chicken breast or eggplant medallions are topped with aromatic marinara and melted mozzarella, served with a side of fettucine alfredo. Macaroni’s lasagna is also popular, as is the Capellini d’ Mediterranean—baby tomatoes, spinach, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, in a white wine sauce, with the option to add chicken or prawns.

Classic pizzas abound but you should try The Bacon and The Bees pizza. It’s a crunchy crust generously covered in Applewood smoked bacon, goat cheese, green onions, roasted garlic oil, mozzarella, and drizzled in honey.

Their hearty bread is made daily at La Baguette bakery in Ashland.

You can’t forget dessert! Available by the slice or by the whole cake, traditionally baked by Marty himself, the lemon ricotta cheesecake is a house specialty—lemon infused ricotta and cream cheese in a graham cracker almond crust, topped with Oregon mixed berry coulis. Or choose from Italian classic desserts like, Tiramisu, Spumoni ice cream, or Sicilian vanilla ice cream with walnuts, masala wine, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Martino’s lounge has the same menu as Macaroni’s. The bar was named for Marty’s Italian nickname, Martino. The upstairs and downstairs having different names can be confusing, so 20 years into the venture, and after buying Beasy out, Marty thought to simplify things so he changed the name of the downstairs dining room to Martino’s. That did not go over well with long time patrons who thought someone new bought Macaroni’s. So referring back to the start of this article,—"if it ain’t broke, don't fix it,” Marty changed the name back to the original—Macaroni’s downstairs, Martino’s upstairs. The kitchen’s output is amazing considering that they didn't enlarge it when they more than doubled their dining space by adding the entire upstairs. The only change was adding a dumbwaiter, used to send food upstairs and drinks downstairs.

Marty credits the Sandlers hugely for being vested enough in the community to work with him and other tenants, especially during these severe economic downturns. In 2011, a beam in the Angus Bowmer Theatre broke, essentially cancelling 31 performances. Recently, Southern Oregon experienced terrible wildfire smoke, and now we have the pandemic of 2020. All have severely impacted tourism.

Marty is also especially grateful for long time employees Amy Wong and Kristie Monroe, familiar faces who have helped make Macaroni’s and Martino’s the institutions they are today.

At the time of this article, in addition to dine-in and outdoor dining, Macaroni’s and Martino’s offers online orders for pickup or delivery. See website for updated information and online ordering or phone 541-488-3359.

And it would be remiss to leave out that Martino’s is a full service bar with many local and Oregon wines, craft beers, and custom cocktails. 


Martino’s Lounge


Macaroni’s Ristorante


58 E Main St, Ashland


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