Pizzeria Bruno was the one place I wanted to go during my visit to San Diego earlier this month. Mike Senese, television personality and hardcore pizzahead, had mentioned that it was, "easily the best pizza I've found in Southern California," so of course I had to try it.
I walked in and the first thing I noticed was this Forza Napoli soccer scarf.
Flashback to 2001 when I went to the AS Roma vs. Napoli game at the soccer stadium in Roma. I'm a big Totti fan (and Nakata played for Roma back then too), but for the sake of conversation, let's say Napoli won. The Romans then went apeshit in their rage, so much that it felt like the stadium would implode and collapse unto itself. Of course the Carabinieri (Italy's lazy pseudo-FBI police force) were there in full armor, ready for heavy combat to try to prevent blood from shedding on the streets of Breaderico Panini. Nonetheless useless as usual.
They take their football seriously in Europe. Very, very seriously. [Ask me about the AC Milan vs. Juventus game sometime. DRAMA!].
The scarf reminded me of all of this, particularly the Italians' unshakable dedication to their teams and their cities. And the one thing that is so quintessential to the city of Napoli, aside from their soccer team and creepyass train station (winner of the You-Will-Definitely-Get-Mugged-Here Award), is their pizza. It's a very unique style-- the paper-thin crust probably being the first and most important distinction.
I knew this would be a night of heavy pizza critiquing, as I went with two friends who I had traveled with to Napoli back in 2000. We all still treasure our memories of that trip, and, of course, the pizza. So the bar was set pretty high for Bruno. But that's ok, right? We should all have high standards when eating out. Especially for pizza.
We started with the Market Salad while we patiently waited for our pizzas. Generous shavings of parmigiano.
Spicy olive oil was placed on the table. This was a special sign from the pizza gods, as pizza houses in the U.S. NEVER have chili oil, which is such a staple in pizzerias in Italy.
The classic Margherita: Tomato sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella di Bufala. Please take note of the char bubbles. Importantissimo.
The mozzerella was $5 extra but totally worth it if you're interested in eating your pizza with the BEST CHEESE IN THE WORLD. At least on pizza.
The Salami: Tomato sauce, mozzerella, reggiano, soppressata, and olives. Again, the char bubbles.
Isn't she luscious?
La Campania: Tomato sauce, mozzerella, mushrooms, fennel sausage, roasted onions.
This pizza was my favorite. The sausage was flavorful, as were the roasted onions, that are so much sweeter than just tossing them on raw. The mushrooms were cut thick, adding a great texture to the entire thing. Bravo.
Interior of the crust: this is where Bruno distinguishes itself from just another pizzeria, or even the standard napoletana pizza-- the texture is actually rather spongy. There was such an airiness to it, we loved this! It had a really a unique bite.
I have heard comments that this pizza is "soggy". Good pizza should never be decribed this way, but actually, this style of pizza tends to get pretty wet, that is true, from all the sauce and olive oil and cheese. It's pretty normal, so don't be alarmed-- although come on, who wants a "dry" pizza?? Not me! I want the sauce and cheese to meld together and explode in my mouth, thank you.
Aerial view. Forgot to take a pizza upskirt picture but you can see the bottom of one of the slices on my plate below. I would say it was charred just right-- pretty pale in color, and dotted with sporadic blackened spots.
Sasha exclaimed: "This is even better than the pizza in Napoli!" Whoa.
Now, the fun part. We started talking to the owner/pizzaiolo, Peter Lutz behind the counter who gave me the grand tour!
Meet Pete: True pizza napoletana aficionado.
Pete's pizza-partner-in-crime, Bruno.
Named after Pete's wife's grandfather, Bruno was custom-built in Napoli by some famed wood-fired-pizza-oven building family, put on a freighter ship, and landed in San Diego months later. I believe Pete told me there are only one or two other of these ovens in the States.
Bruno gets over 900˚F! HOT!
Definitely not sticking my hand in there.
Fire wood and Pete's metal pizza peel.
Pete brought out some of his key ingredients that make up his pizza. Only the best for Bruno and its clientele.
He also uses San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce, which is pretty much the standard now at Napoletana-style pizzerias. But Pete did make it a point that he doesn't like to drop names and brands-- he thinks that good, quality ingredients should just be a given and his establishment shouldn't be defined by such specific brands. Well stated, my friend.
Pete also accidentally slipped and told me what kind of flour he uses. OOPS.
I have to say that the desserts were forgettable, as they also are at Tony's in San Francisco. We got the cannoli and panna cotta. At this point, I'm not really expecting great desserts at pizzerias, so it's fine.
We pretty much closed the place down, as usual.
Thank you Mike for the awesome recommendation, and big love for Pete, who has brought his devotion and art of great pizza napoletana to Southern California. Better than Napoli, says Sasha! (Don't let them hear you Sash, i Napoletani sono pazzi).
Viva Napoli! Viva Bruno!