Not since the arrival of Franny's in Brooklyn has a pizza joint generated this much buzz. At Bruno in the East Village the praise is well deserved.
The place is spotless. A stainless steel counter runs the entire length with whitewashed walls. Behind the counter is an open-air kitchen with its brick oven blazing. Workers in unison flipping pizza dough. Others pampering each pie with fresh ingredients, including ricotta piped on with a pastry bag, meats and fresh veggies. Each thin-crust pie emerging from the oven glistening with goodness.
We ordered the Nduji, a fiery pie made with spicy pork sausage, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. Cauliflower helps to mellow it out, but it is still mighty powerful. It's topped with what looks like baby beet leaves giving it a burst of freshness. It really is an outstanding pie and well thought out. Other pies include the margherita with mozzarella, fermented tomato, garlic and lovage, an herb offering hints of celery. A country ham pizza is topped with pawlet cheese, peaches, smoked ham and cured onion. As you might expect, pies here cost a bit more, around $18-$22 for a pie about the size of a large dinner plate cut into six slices. It's best to go as a group and share multiple pies to get a taste of everything.
Bruno sells more than just pizza. Asian influences seep into dishes like fluke/uni with wild apple and hopped buttermilk; diver scallop with matsutake mushrooms; and eggplant with black cashew and shishito. Pasta plates include Cavatappi with smoked bone marrow, clams, collard greens and bacon, while Bucatini gets fresh corn, gold bar squash, spring onion and squash blossoms.
The volume at Bruno can get a little loud with lots of people cramming into a tight space. You will also find little ones sharing pizza with mom and pop. If I had one complaint it would be the seats that resemble wooden crates. They're tough on the hiney and in need of padding pronto. But with a nice selection of craft beers and wines at hand, it's all easily forgotten.
Where does Bruno get its ideas? The book shelf behind the counter may hold some clues. We spotted titles like the "Devil in the Kitchen," "Flour and Water," "Herbs and Spices," "Mastering Pasta" and "The Way We Ate." We also spotted a little Michelin man. Hint. Hint.