Former Ashland restaurateur relocates to downtown Medford

After selling his Grants Pass restaurant two years ago and shuttering another in Ashland last month, Gaetano Siragusa has found a place for a third go-round in downtown Medford.

The Sicilian restaurateur expects to open Gaetano Ristorante Italiano in the old Woolworth Building on North Central Avenue in late January, offering "old world" cuisine in a variety of settings.

Siragusa says it made little sense for him to simply open a second location.

"Someone once told me, 'If you own a restaurant you're crazy, and you are insane if you own two,' " he recalls. "I want to focus on one with the kind of business we will have here."

Gaetano Ristorante Italiano will offer a varied approach to Italian food in the site formerly occupied by Oh's Osaka. His plans include a trattoria for customers seeking light fare as well as a "super lounge" with sofas and a formal dining area to provide multiple eating and drinking experiences.

A small retail area will offer imported Italian goods as well as fresh bread, pasta and sauces made on site. Across from the kitchen area, a wine bar will carry Southern Oregon wines.

"I want the feeling of a small restaurant," Siragusa says. "I want to be more selective and still focus on quality, but I'm trying to make this place more affordable."

The location became available when Oh's Osaka departed the Woolworth Building after nine years and moved to the former Ground Zero setting at 123 S. Front St.

The move from Ashland to Medford is nothing like the one Siragusa made 15 years ago when he left Sicily for the Rogue Valley, but it's both a change in direction and location for the veteran restaurateur. Siragusa says he contemplated moving his business to Medford for two years for two primary reasons: Ashland's meals tax and the recession.

"For me, Ashland was targeting one industry, the food industry," he says. "They could have spread around (the) 5 percent (tax)."

Ashland's ample supply of restaurants was a factor, too. "There are too many restaurants (in Ashland) during the wintertime and too few people," he says. "You have to make a smart choice."

The move will give him considerably more space — about 5,000 square feet — nearly four times the space in his former Granite Street location in Ashland, where he was limited to about 50 customers at once during the winter, when outside seating wasn't available.

"I feel an inspiration here," he says. "If you would have offered this place to me 10 years ago, I would have said no. Now, I see this area can be revitalized, and that I can help bring more people downtown."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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