Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Bruno's third year
University Heights fancy pizza place of record can claim success despite a tough locale
I am amazed that Pizzeria Bruno settled not for survival in a terrible location, but held on for the outright win. I dropped in during a weeknight dinner service and it was jamming! The only spot I could sit was at the bar, where I was graced with some conversation from the obviously busy staff. It’s easy to ignore a solo diner since we don’t spend a lot of money, but I’m always pleased when somebody goes out of his or her way to make me feel welcome as a singleton.
When Bruno opened, I prophesied a short tenure. The pizza was good but the dark, cracked-out sidewalks on Park Boulevard didn’t bode well. Plus, they opened right at the time when businesses were failing by the truckload. I gave it less than a year.
It’s been three and Bruno is still going strong. I counted two servers, two bussers, and two cooks working dinner, which is not the skeleton-crew of a struggling restaurant! I struck up a conversation and I gather that a lot of devoted customers are keeping the place busy. Indeed, the dressed up clientele that taking their leisurely time and noshing on Naples-style pizza looked liked a solid, dependable customer base. There were a lot of guys in pointy, Italian shoes and women in expensive jeans, which are exactly the kind of people you want coming in for Euro-chic pizza.
Little, if anything, has changed for Bruno in the last three years. Rather than castigate the restaurant for that, I want to hold it up as a counter-example to what I was talking about yesterday. I had a salsicce pizza topped with fennel sausage, mozzarella cheese, and a touch of broccoli rabe. The soft, chewy crust had been blistered by the blazing oven so the dough was just barely cooked. Splashed with a little of the house “spicy oil” (which is truly spicy and deserves a moderate touch), it was as fine a pizza as I’ve had.
In light of the world’s refusal to end today, I’d like to point to Pizzeria Bruno as a rare success story in the restaurant game, where the odds are seldom in anyone’s favor and making a crappy location work is a great accomplishment. If anybody out there has yet to try Bruno’s pizza, do yourselves a favor and go have some in case the world does come to a smoldering conclusion sometime in the near future.
4207 Park Boulevard