Ed: Unfortunately Bruno's closed in October 2009.
Bruno's Italian Restaurant
1354 Madison Avenue
While doing research for my Flyer story on Bruno's, I decided to take Warren and the monkeys (Satchel, 6, and Jiro, 4) there for lunch. It was Saturday around 2:00pm so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We sat at the table near the window and the monkeys immediately pounced on the small glass of crayons and got to work coloring on the white butcher paper covering the table.
"Yay! Colors!" they cheered.
Bruno's is small and cozy with bright yellow walls and rustic paintings. On this visit it seemed like a totally different place than it had earlier in the week when I lunched with two friends. Bruno's gets a very large Medical Center crowd at lunch during the week and it is really bustling. Not so much on Saturday. The lack of a crowd was fine by me.
Our waiter's came over and introduced himself as Leslie, which I thought was funny since on my last visit my waitress was named Mike. Leslie seemed a little unsure of himself...maybe even a little scared of the monkeys. (It was a big change from Mike's outgoing, confident exterior.) He took our drink orders and we examined the menu.
The lunch and dinner menu is the same, except portions and prices are larger at night. During the week there is a lunch special from 11am-2pm for $6.99 that includes lasagna, chicken parmesan, ravioli, manicotti, and all of the sandwiches. I was a bit bummed that we wouldn't be getting a nice deal, but soldiered on.
"What do you guys want to eat?" I asked the monkeys. "They have cheese sticks, ravioli, spaghetti, soup..."
My words were falling on deaf ears.
"Look I spelled my name in light sabers," Jiro said.
"I spelled mine in cursive and with bubble letters," Satchel said.
I looked at Warren. "Want to get them one of these 'create a samplers' to split?"
"Sure," he said.
For the sampler, you can choose three items from the following: stuffed mushrooms, calamari, fried zucchini, fried mozzarella, fried beef or cheese ravioli, or chicken tenders. We decided to get them calamari, fried mozzarella, and beef ravioli.
I tried to sell Satchel on some wedding soup--he loves soup--but he was being stubborn. I decided to order some for myself, along with the cannelloni, and share with him if he became interested. Warren decided on a meatball sandwich, which came with a side of roasted potatoes, and a Caesar salad.
Leslie returned with our drinks--four tall glasses of water. The monkeys are pretty good about not spilling these days, but the tall glasses made me nervous. As they maneuvered their crayons back and forth, showed off their creations, and just generally wiggled, I kept my eyes glued to their glasses. Every few minutes I moved them one inch to the left...or right...forward and then back again. It was exhausting!
Leslie soon brought us some piping hot bread sticks, my soup, and Warren's salad. We dug in. The kids really liked the bread sticks and I convinced Satchel to take a few bites of my soup. When their sampler arrived, they both took a few bites of everything, and said things like, "Mmmm..." and "Yummy!" Then they proceeded to ignore their food in favor of coloring and squirming. In general they just didn't seem hungry.
In order to get the kids to eat we employed several bribing tactics. After much cajoling they eventually ate most of their food. I'll admit that I didn't think the sampler looked too appetizing. I'd say most of it was frozen to begin with, but not necessarily store bought frozen. I gave everything a taste and the taste was good. Maybe everything needed just a few more seconds in the deep fryer.
Warren really liked his meatball sandwich and I liked my cannelloni, but not nearly as much as I liked the lasagna on my first visit.
We of course ended our visit with a trip to the restroom, which was clean but nothing to get excited about. I wouldn't want to change a diaper in there.
Overall our meal and service was just fine. Going at a weird time on the weekend when they were breaking in a new server made it a little less exciting than going during the week when it was packed and had the A-Team wait staff. (Not to mention the lunch special.) I can see the monkeys wanting to go back to color more than they will want to go back to eat.
As we were leaving, I glanced back at the sad signboard out front that had "Bruno's restaurant now open" scribbled in blue marker. I wished I would have had the monkeys color them a new sign while we were there.