Pasta Nostra Restaurant
39 years of fine dining in Connecticut
Celebrated Norwalk Chef Joe Bruno—3 Stars NY Times, among many other distinctions—expanded his 1984 Pasta Nostra concept in 2015 as "bruculino"--meaning a guy from Brooklyn. After a few years and the rigors of time, he brought back the tried and true, good ol' Pasta Nostra, but now it with a full bar, warm jazz, and a sleek modern room.
In 1984 Chef Joe came up from Brooklyn to open his pasta store/restaurant “Pasta Nostra” on Washington Street in the newly restored SoNo district of Norwalk, CT. The first restaurateur to open in SoNo—an area that had been forsaken by locals for its run-down condition—Joe and his cooking attracted the attention of foodies and critics alike and in the process helped turn Washington Street into a place to go. In 1985 the New York Times gave it such a glowing review there were lines in the winter street for lunch, the only meal served at the time. Later, after dinner was added to the menu, the Times returned and, recognizing the excellence of Joe’s cooking, awarded him three stars. Food writers Jane and Michael Stern lauded the place with The Hartford Courant’s highest rating. Cook’s and Yankee magazines published feature articles on Joe, and in '93 Joe was the featued chef in a half-page spread of the NY Time's national edition. The place was rockin.’
Though it was good for business Joe was not comfortable with fame and avoided additional press for many years. In 2000 Martha Stewart enticed him into a full half-hour TV spot on her network show Martha Stewart Living, much of it filmed on location at Pasta Nostra. Joe was thrilled because his aging mom could sit in her California home with her friends and watch Joe cooking family favorites, as Martha described Joe’s cooking as some of the best in New England. By 2014, after 30 years in the same place, Joe was torn between retirement or building something new.
He went for the new and called it Bruculino—a "guy from Brooklyn" in slang Italian. A partnership between Joe and some of Pasta Nostra's longtime crew, it was designed by architect Roger Ferris and actually built by Joe and the crew. It's high-style, exposed steel and concrete, Italian chairs, and terrazzo bar, were evocative of tonier locales than SoNo, but as Joe said, “Norwalk deserves high-style too.”
Bruculino's food was a reminiscence of growing up in Brooklyn in the 50’s and 60’s surrounded by Italians, but inflected by exposure to Syrians, Israelis and Latinos, to mention but a few; this was Joe's final chance to share all that with his patrons. After a fun though tiring run, the aging chef decided to retreat to the safety and well-rehearsed routine of his earlier format. In 2021 bruculino morphed back into Pasta Nostra. Amen.