It would be a while before they revisited the idea, but neither ever let it go. In 1995, "right after Jerry died," according to Hedford, the longtime friends decided to relocate to Central Oregon to be ski bums for a winter. And a winter turned into six.
In 2002, it was a for-rent sign on Sisters' main drag that propelled the dream into action. Mark and Brad both knew that this was the time and the place to set up shop. They took the lessons they learned during their years in the pizza business, putting their own spin on the most successful ideas, and hung out a shingle. "Martolli's"-not an actual Italian name, but the combination of "Mart" for Martell and "Olli" for the nickname Mark got from his middle name Olaf-is the perfect moniker for these two distinct personalities joined in their respect for the flavors and traditions they observed on the job. The result is classic, skillfully made thin-crust pizza with a creative take on sauces and toppings crafted from only the freshest ingredients.
Pizza is available by the slice, a la carte ($2.25,$3.25) or with a fountain soda and a side salad ($6.25), and by the pie that you can eat in, take out or take and bake at home (from $7 for the most basic personal-size pie to about $25 for a loaded large pie). You can create your own pie, but if you're looking for something special, order one of the combinations on the menu. It's unlikely that you'll come up with anything as interesting on your own. Try the Marchetti: garlic olive oil sauce, fresh spinach, mozzarella and fontina cheeses, Italian sausage, feta and toasted walnuts. I'd never think to put walnuts on pizza but the absence of red sauce and the seasonings that usually go along with it clears the way for this unexpected treat. The Tuscany with sun-dried olive oil sauce, mozzarella, roasted chicken, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and chèvre, is rich and complex. There is also a long list of veggie combos that are equally impressive, including the Veggie Pesto: pesto sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. If you're a purist, don't hesitate to go for something more traditional like a pepperoni or plain cheese slice. The crust is just the right balance of crispy and chewy, and Martolli's classic red sauce won't disappoint.
Pizza may be the draw, but don't overlook the salads. Try the Mediterranean Caesar, a classic Caesar with roma tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, feta cheese and toasted walnuts. Or go for the Martolli's: mixed organic greens, roma tomatoes and red onions topped with bleu cheese crumbles, black olives and toasted walnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette.
Seven years old this week, Martolli's has hit its stride. The classic pizza parlor feel coupled with a gourmet palate reflects the proprietors' spirit. Still close friends as well as business partners, Mark and Brad make sure it's not all work and no play. "We still try to take a day a week to ski together," says Hedford. If you can't do at least that, really what's the point?
220 West Cascade, Sisters, 549-8356
11:30 a.m.-close (7-8 p.m.) daily.