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First bite: Pizza, pasta and local brew at Medi’s on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Oct. 7, 2011 at 5:33 am | 2 Comments »
October 6, 2011 3:21 pm
The meatball calzone and a Sluggo combo pizza at Medi's on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma. Photo by Janet Jensen/Staff photographer)

Medi’s in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood opened three weeks ago and brought with it something much needed on Sixth: a place to grab a pizza slice and a place to bring a kid.

Think of Medi’s as a red sauce Italian pasta and pizza joint, just minus the red-checked tablecloths and Sinatra soundtrack. You won’t find Chianti bottles jammed with candles, but you will find comfortable wood table seating in a clean and spacious dining room with flat panel TVs to watch the game.

The locals have settled in. Daytime patrons are a mix of funky hipsters, guys in construction garb, and families with kids. Late night, Medi’s turns into the same thing found up and down Sixth Avenue – a bar hangout one evening and a live music or karaoke bar the next.

The tap list is Washington-friendly (Harmon, Silver City, Dick’s, Pyramid, Iron Horse) and changes occasionally.

Medi’s opened where Sluggo Music used to be (the Sluggo sign hangs above the stage). Medi’s owner, Patrick Mawhinney, also owns O’Malley’s, the pub just down the street.

The menu is brief and basic: pizza, calzones, a meatball sandwich, lasagna and linguini, all modestly priced at $10 or less. Josh Norris, an O’Malley’s veteran, does the cooking and runs the restaurant. Norris told me diners should expect a slight increase in prices and more sandwiches and pizza combinations soon.

Medi’s makes pizza with medium thickness, neither crispy thin nor doughy thick. The crust comes with pleasing pull and chewy resistance, and edges carry a touch of crisp. This is sturdy pizza you can fold in half, hold horizontally, and jam into your mouth – as the pizza gods intended. Based on three visits, I’d say Medi’s pizza beats Puget Sound Pizza, its closest competition in pizza style, and it beats it not only in price, but in execution.

Two-topping pizzas are bargain-priced at $7 (10-inch small), $9 (14-inch medium) and $10 (16-inch large), with additional toppings $1-$2 each. The menu lists only two combo pizzas. The Sluggo combo with sausage, pepperoni, olives and onions showed even topping distribution – I didn’t have to chase after toppings bite after bite – but the pizza also wasn’t burdened with toppings and pizza flop. The same was true of a veggie combo. Pepperoni was meaty and peppery. Pizzas came with punchy, rich red sauce and a blanket of gooey mozzarella, the surface barely grazed with golden brown blisters.

Calzones at Medi's come with a marinara red sauce that tastes of slow-cooked goodness.

Cheese or pepperoni pizza by the slice is $2 from 11-2 and 9 to close.
Calzones, which looked hand-crimped with a shiny crust, are a bargain at $6. A calzone stuffed with house-made beef and pork meatballs, mozzarella and a swipe of red sauce was my favorite on-the-cheap meal in September. A sausage version tasted equally good.

The meatball sandwich at Medi's is five bucks.

A meatball sandwich ($5) tasted perfect: A partially split crunchy, toasted roll stuffed with those house-made, garlicky pork and beef meatballs (that tasted of meat and not bread crumb filler) smeared with a channel of tomato sauce. The whole sandwich overflowed with bubbling, melted mozzarella. Marinara red sauce on the side tasted of slow-cooked tomato goodness.

Pesto linguini ($9) came with garlic bread and a salad. I liked the herbal blast of basil in the pesto, but the flat sauce left me reaching for grated Parmesan and salt. Lasagna ($9) was meaty and rich, but a few minutes more in the oven would have created a better cheese crust.

Prepare yourself for the best $1 salad in town. Crisp greens, black olives, a tomato wedge, a dusting of grated Parmesan and a few squiggles of mozzarella. It’s a buck if you buy it with a calzone or sandwich, or it’s free with the pasta. It’s $2 otherwise.

Mom tip: Kids 12 and younger drink for free. Draft root beer on tap from Oregon’s Crater Lake Soda earned my mom stamp of approval. The restaurant’s kid-friendly vibe made me a fan, but you may have to request or go searching for kid accouterments like high chairs, booster seats and cups with lids. You’ll also notice no designated menu for kids. However, pizza is one of the four kid food groups, along with chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and ice cream, right?

A note about the service: Servers were extremely slow to acknowledge my party on two of three visits, but were attentive once the meal was under way. On one visit, I saw irritated diners walk out because they weren’t acknowledged.

Where: 2710 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily
Information: 253-272-2531

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