Friday, November 30, 2012

“Oh, Authenticity!

“It’s something we all love, except when it clashes with our expectations” (David Nelson at

Ennui Alert! Here comes another blog about pizza.

I don’t know how I missed this one. This is our fourth year in a row that we have spent some time in San Diego and somehow never discovered Pizzeria Bruno which seems to have been open since at least 2009.
And not just any pizzeria but one with a VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana) certified pizzaiolo who produces authentic Napoletana pizza.

David Nelson goes on to say: “Collar your nearest Italian buddy and demand his take on Pizzeria Bruno…A survey of my own Italian acquaintances—by which I mean actual citizens of Italy who live in San Diego—received the unanimous verdict that Bruno serves the most authentic pizza in town.
“’It tastes just like pizza does at home,’ says a pal from Lombardy who runs a small café downtown. ‘The first time I went to Bruno, I closed my eyes when I took my first bite and suddenly I was back with my family in Italy, eating pizza and drinking wine.’”
Pizzeria Bruno is open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and we found ourselves with the restaurant almost to ourselves the Saturday of our visit. There were a few customers dining at sidewalk tables and another couple dining inside at a table tucked off to one corner. But other than the one server and the pizzaiolo, the restaurant was empty.

Bruno’s décor was minimal with the visual space dominated by the giant wood-fired brick domed oven custom built in Naples by family craftsmen. While the restaurant, and therefore the oven, bears the name of the owner’s wife’s grandfather, to me the name has a much different association.
And it’s now time for a digression and a walk down memory lane. I remember late Saturday nights growing up in Iowa. My mother would go to bed just after the 10:00 news, and my father and I would sit and watch that period’s incarnation of WWE Raw. And one of the frequently featured wrestlers was Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino. So to me, Bruno is an appropriate name for a monster pizza oven.
Napoletana-style pizzas are usually plate size—ten to twelve inches across. We have learned that we can pack away two with no problem—the only problem is deciding which two. The classic Margherita is a given. But what to go with it? We finally decided on another Margherita with the addition of sausage.

These were the real deal. Again quoting David Nelson at “Bruno’s pizza sails through the authenticity test, but there are differences between the genuine article and pizza as many Americans have been educated, usually for the worse, to understand it. A real Neapolitan pie, which is the kind served at Bruno, has a high, wide rim darkened by the oven’s diabolical heat…
Yet as hot as the flames that roar inside the oven may be, the center of the pie usually is rather soft and moist, an effect not always beloved by those unaccustomed to this condition. The key difference is that Americans usually expect a wild exuberance of toppings…Italians take a more restrained approach, adding decorations with an eye to beauty as well as flavor, and taking care that the crust itself is given savory prominence.”

And, as we learned from Jeff Talbot at Ancora (in New Orleans), Napoletana-style pizzas are all about the bread or crust. And, as noted by Marie Tran-McCaslin at “Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano…turned heads when it first opened in San Diego, with its soft-centered pizza, crispy crust and perfectly developed gluten….Before it came along, I didn’t appreciate pizza crust. It was merely a carrier for whatever was on top. I would eat it, but it was a bland afterthought and not something to be savored. The crust at Pizzeria Bruno, however, is no afterthought. The flavor is complex, the result of properly risen crust, and it stands on its own, regardless of the toppings.”

Both of our choices were nearly perfect—especially the Margherita (above). “The pie emerged steaming from the oven, drizzled with olive oil and ripped basil. The pie sung with a purity of flavor, and the San Marzano tomatoes were well balanced by the creamy and slightly salty fior di latte and sweet basil. This pizza was a great example of a classic pie done just right” (Erin Jackson –

And the Margherita with sausage was its equal and was amply topped with good locally made fennel sausage.
But even after devouring two pizzas, there was still room for dessert—especially when said dessert are a pair of cannolis filled with a light ricotta-based cream and the ends decorated with chocolate chips and pistachios.
Before leaving, I had to ask about the window sign that was facing inward next to our table.
Yes, we learned, they do at times run out of dough. Since the “aging” process takes three days (which explains why the gluten is so well developed), they will sometimes run out on Sundays if it has been a particularly busy Saturday night. “Out of Dough” are words I don’t want to hear.

Pizzeria Bruno now takes over the third spot (replacing Pomo in Scottsdale, AZ) on our all-time favorite pizza list and earns 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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