New Marcello's owner Thaddeus ”Thad” Lodge is implementing a few changes, including making the Italian restaurant into a family business.
His sister and her family moved to Central Oregon this summer from their native Ohio, and their parents will follow in May.
”I'd been out here four years and there was never any talk of anybody moving out here. But as soon as my sister, brother-in-law and nephew moved out, my parents were like, 'Oh, grandson's gone. We gotta go, too,'” Lodge said.
”My dad's been retired for several years. He just immediately thought it was a great idea. They'll be out here officially in May.”
Lodge knows Marcello's Cucina Italiana as well as anyone, having managed the restaurant for a year and a half before buying it this fall. The restaurant was closed much of October and November for remodeling and the changing of the guard.
”It was the perfect time to do it. November's a very slow month in Sunriver, traditionally,” he said.
But with arrival of the holidays comes the reliable deluge of tourists, and Lodge is eager to receive them.
Marcello's was built as a pizza parlor in 1978, and morphed into Marcello's in 1980. The building where it resides was Sunriver's original post office, gas station and grocery store ”way back in the day,” he said.
More recently, the menu and decor have changed a bit. Local artists' photographs hang for sale on the walls, and there's a new Foosball table in the lounge.
The back dining room boasts a fireplace, and upstairs, used only in the peak seasons of summer and winter, diners eat beneath skylights.
The bar no longer offers Spanish tapas as it did when it was known as La Bodega. ”We just turned it back into Marcello's Lounge again, like the old days,” said Lodge. The bar menu is all new, featuring an array of appetizers, including Calamari Fritto ($7), and from the grill, Berta's Beer Battered Fish and Chips ($7.50) and Thadeo's Meatball Sandwich ($6.50).
But lounge patrons aren't limited to that menu, Lodge said. Restaurant items are also available there. Among the more popular fare is the Linguini con Carne, which features Italian sausage, sauteed onion and mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce ($16). The Fettuccini con Pollo, another best-seller, comes replete with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, feta cheese and capers for $15.
”One of my favorites, which I try to push because it's excellent, is the osso buco (Milanese), a slow-roasted veal shank in a tomato, red-wine stew, served over risotto. That's a wonderful dish.” It sells for $20.
Lodge also believes Marcello's hand-tossed pizzas and calzones are the best in Sunriver. ”By far, for the price,” he said. ”A lot of to-go pizzas (are) ordered. I have several people, locals, who come in just for that. They come in once a week just for the pizza.”
Their options include the Italiano, with broiled chicken breast, tomatoes, onions, basil and garlic ($14) and Marcello's Treat, with sausage, green peppers, mushrooms and onions ($13).
The difference is the stone pizza oven. ”It just cooks the dough more thoroughly without burning it, and it's not drying out the dough as much as a rotator oven would.”
There's already a regular clientele frequenting the cheerful lounge, with its long, dark-wood bar. Lodge hopes to expand those numbers, encouraging tourists to come in after skiing.
”I'd like to boost that, for sure, and just make more people aware of it,” Lodge said. ”Other than the (Sunriver) Lodge, it's the only nonsmoking bar in town.”
Bartenders Larry Newland and Sammy Paul have their specialty drinks. Newland's Bloody Mary's - or 'Bloody Larry's, as they're known - are ”classic,” Lodge said. Paul is known for her Lemon Drop, Coffee Nudge and Hot Toddy.
Lodge's father, Tom, stops in between errands. During the restaurant's Nov. 18 reopening, Tom Lodge greeted customers.
He noted that most of the employees stayed throughout the ownership transition. ”It's a great group of employees. Just real personable. People really care about what they're doing,” Tom Lodge said.
”It's nice to have that family feel,” the younger Lodge said.
MARCELLO'S CUCINA ITALIANA
Location: 4 Ponderosa Road, Sunriver (across from Village Mall)
Hours: 5 p.m. to close daily; lounge 4 p.m. to close Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to close Sunday
Price Range: Pastas $12 to $18; pizzas $10 to $14; entrees $17 to $24
Alcoholic Beverages: Full bar
Kids' Menu: Yes Reservations: Accepted
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express