Looking for a taste of traditional Italian home cooking in Springfield? If you even thought of a chain restaurant, shame on you. Head to Bruno's Italian restaurant downtown on South Avenue for authentic flavors and dishes not found in many places in Missouri. Owner Bruno Gargiulo (Yes, there actually is a "Bruno") is from Sicily and has created three dynamic menus: a more casual lunch menu, a fine-dining dinner menu and a menu featuring the more than 50 varieties of wine sold at the restaurant. Bruno's has one of the largest selections of authentic Italian wines in Springfield, and the knowledgeable bartenders and owner are quick to recommend a perfect pairing with your entree selection. In fact, Bruno now has his own wine shipped in from his Sicilian vineyard. Nestled in a downtown building restored over three years ago, Brunos built a following of loyal regulars already familiar with some of the best Italian food in town. Join the in crowd and taste some rustic Italian cooking that also bears the elegance and sophistication of fine dining. And of course, there's the wine.
Having lived in Italy for a study abroad program, I know that authentic, delicious Italian food means fresh, delicious ingredients paired to bring out their clean, harmonizing flavors. Melding those fresh flavors is what Bruno's is all about. Also a pizzeria, Bruno's makes traditional thin-crust pizzas in its 600-plus degree brick oven, which is smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. With incredibly diverse pizza choices, you may have to visit more than once, or order several at a time and share with a group. Try the Affumicata Pizza, which has smoked mozzarella, smoked chicken and ham. Or try my personal favorite, the Ai Caprini, which has roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and roasted red bell peppers. The Ai Caprini has made believers out of customers who claim to enjoy neither bell peppers nor goat cheese. It's undeniably delicious. One of the antipastas (appetizers) my companion and I tried was the phenomenal Involtini di Capellini: long, thin slices of eggplant rolled around angel hair pasta smothered in tomato sauce, topped with a dollop of creamy bechamel sauce and baked in the brick oven. Try the Insalata Verdure, a salad of mixed greens topped with fresh grilled seasonal vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant and mushrooms with the house's balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It is possible to eat light at Bruno's, but with such delicious hearty dishes, who would want to? Executive chef Anthony Kurpjuweit is earning a well-deserved reputation for his killer soups and decadent desserts. Italian staples like gelato, tiramisu and cannoli are available along with the incredible triple layer chocolate mousse cake and others.
There are many varieties of Italian wines at Bruno's. What else would you expect from the proprieter? He owns his own vineyard. The man loves and knows his wine. You can try his own personal wine, the 2006 vintage Brunello di Saponello. It's a blend of 65 percent cabernet and 35 percent merlot. Bruno told me the wine was aged in French barriques, the old-fashioned way of doing things, at an elevation of 2,150 feet. Impressed? You should be. This man knows his stuff. What you need to know about it is that it's really good. Brunello di Saponello is a rich and full-bodied red wine, both tangy and delicious, and will only get better as it ages. Of course, there are more than 50 other varieties of wine and the more-than-competent bartenders Todd and Erin can make you any martini or cocktail you wish. Word on the street, or from the bartender, is the Sicilian Cosmo is one of the most popular mixed drinks leaving the bar. There is a bar downstairs, and upstairs is a more intimate wine and cigar bar, which can be rented out for parties and special occasions.
Inside Bruno's, you will be led into a warm and inviting space with dark wooden tables and chairs, copper-coated ceilings and elegant place settings. It's a mix of fine dining with the comfort of a rustic Italian kitchen: vines suspended from the soft lights, polished wine glasses, fresh cut flowers sitting on the tables and ceramic dishes hanging on the walls. The kitchen line and oven are only closed off from the dining area by a counter, so you can watch all the behind-the-scenes action. The restaurant has an open, lofty feeling in which soft Italian pop music and opera floats down toward the tables.
The bottom line
Put on your snazzy clothes and make a reservation for a table at Bruno's Italian Restaurant. Eat a casual lunch with friends or treat yourself and that someone special to a nice dinner. With wine and all the amenities, you could be looking at a dinner bill of around $25 a person. Lunch is a little less expensive, with a big lunch costing around $10 a person. Do yourself a favor and try some authentic Italian food not often found in our region.