Bruna's: A Heart of Italy Gem
Regular readers of At Our Table have probably noticed by now that I am always up for a delicious Italian meal. That’s why I was so excited when Win recently suggested we have dinner in the Chicago’s Heart of Italy neighborhood. He had a couple places in mind for us that night and decided we’d make the final selection after walking around the tiny neighborhood, peeking in windows, and reading menus. After a fun walk around, we chose Bruna’s.
Bruna’s opened in 1933 and is apparently one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood. Its dining room is warm and cozy and the walls are full of murals of Tuscany, pictures of Sienna, and other charming decorations.
The menu is full of classic Italian dishes, mostly home style favorites with some more unique and exotic choices also available. We wanted to try a number of Bruna’s offerings, so we decided that we’d have three courses that evening.
For our first course, Win selected the Bruschetta and I opted for a dish called Tomatoes Alla Smith. As you can see from the photos, the portions at Bruna’s are ample. Win’s bruschetta was delicious; fresh and flavorful. My Tomatoes Alla Smith (pictured below) was really interesting. It was almost like bruschetta, but served warm with melted cheese on top of roasted tomatoes, seasonings, a good amount of basil and olive oil. The warmth of this dish made it feel quite hearty and it was delicious.
We then embarked on another appetizer course. Win selected Prosciutto con Melone and I went for Mussels in Marinara Sauce. The prosciutto was outstanding. The mussels were out of this world. Fresh and perfect, in an outstanding marinara. The bowl of mussels was gigantic, but they were just so, so good that I ate every one. Spectacular accompanied by our bold Chianti and bites of just-baked bread from Bruna’s large and lovely breadbasket.
Already quite full from our first two courses, we still looked forward to our entrée course with anticipation. Everything had been excellent so far and we were eager to taste our main dishes. Win ordered Ravioli alla Bolognese, the traditional ravioli with a rich meat sauce. It was flavorful and very tasty. I chose one of Bruna’s special pastas for that evening, a Ravioli with Spinach and Cheese. Based on our waiter’s description of the pasta, I was really looking forward to trying it.
When mine came, I was surprised to see it in a cream sauce. I was anticipating a marinara. I took a bite of the ravioli and was even more surprised to taste tuna. Our server had accidentally brought me the Ravioli al Tonnno instead of the ravioli I requested. I tasted a couple more bites and decided that I really liked the tuna ravioli. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have ordered on my own, but when it appeared accidentally I found it to be quite good. So I decided to keep it and enjoy. The ravioli was full of fresh tuna and coated in a rich cream sauce sprinkled with freshly ground pepper. The pepper really enhanced the flavor of the dish and helped break some of the heaviness of the cream sauce.
Quite full from all our courses, we ended up taking much of the pasta home and savoring it again over lunch the next day. I actually found the tuna ravioli to be even better on day two with an even more pronounced, bold flavor.
The staff at Bruna’s was friendly and they made our evening there very pleasant, despite the ravioli mix-up. Everything we tasted was outstanding and if you’re in the mood to check out the Heart of Italy neighborhood in Chicago, give Bruna’s a try.
2424 S. Oakley Avenue
A note to those wondering about our Lima Bean’s new sleep schedule: All our guests left earlier this week, so we were able to transition Lima into a real bed and start that process. We’ve had ups and downs and I must say there have been more downs than ups in the past few days. She absolutely adores her new “big girl bed” and tells everyone on the street all about it. But she’s still reluctant to get to sleep on her own in it and it’s taking us a while to get her to settle at bedtime. Plus she’s waking up a couple times in the middle of every night, something she hasn’t done since she was a baby. Things are improving gradually and with any luck it’ll take just a few more days to complete her transition to the new bed and get her back to being an easy and independent sleeper for us. I was able to write this entry tonight because Win’s been a huge help this weekend, giving me back some spare time.
Next time At Our Table: A Visit to Wisconsin's Little Switzerland