bruculino restaurant -
building on a thirty-year legacy as a pioneer of fine dining in Connecticut
The dream restaurant of celebrated Norwalk Chef Joe Bruno, bruculino springs from the storied thirty-year history of local favorite Pasta Nostra, adding a full bar, sleek dining room, and expanded offerings.
In 1984 Joe Bruno 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 what it is today. In 1985 the New York Times gave Pasta Nostra such a glowing review there were lines in the winter street for lunch, the only meal he 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 finally the New York Times returned yet again and did a half-page spread in the food section of the 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.
Bruculino—a "guy from Brooklyn" in slang Italian—is the new place, a partnership between Joe and longtime Pasta Nostra crew Jose Lucero and Marcelo Flores. Designed by award-winning architect Roger Ferris and built by Joe and his new partners, the beautiful one room bar and dining area—with its exposed steel and concrete, Italian chairs, and terrazzo bar—suggests Milan, Berlin, Seoul or some other international hot spot. But as Joe says, “Norwalk deserves high-style too.”
And the food? It’s a reminiscence of Joe’s growing up in Brooklyn in the 50’s and 60’s surrounded by other Italian families, but exposed to culinary influences from Syrians, Israelis and Latinos, to mention but a few. The menu is bigger but one can still get Pasta Nostra’s famous homemade pasta and handmade sausages, and there’s a bar too, an amenity Pasta Nostra never enjoyed. Joe still writes the recipes and curates the wine cellar, always looking for genuine wines with high quality-to-price ratios, while his partners and other long-time crew do much of the work to ensure the food and service are as exemplary as ever.