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Cheap Eats; Don't let Bruno's plain exterior fool you

Bruno's looks like nothing more than a neighborhood pizzeria, with a plain exterior, large windows all around the six-table eating area, and an elevated counter where people perch to eat a slice or wait for their orders to be carried from the kitchen.

But the food -- including, yes, the pizza -- was so good that you could close your eyes and imagine you were in a place with tablecloths and waiters.

You're not, and the prices reflect that. But the choices, and the quality and quantity of what comes out of that kitchen -- where, classically, the cook thumps the inside of the swinging door with his hand to signal to the sole server and register-operator that an order is ready -- tells a different story.

Start with the soups. Bruno's offers four soups: chili with cheddar, chicken noodle, an unexpected crab and shrimp bisque, and a soup of the day. Chili and bisque are $4.45 a cup; the others are $3.45, with a bowl 50 cents more. The salad choices include Greek, cobb, julienne, chef and tossed house salad, which run between $4.95 and $5.50 for a small. Add to this the usual assortment of wings, fingers, cold and hot subs and hoagies, tacos, finger foods and a Friday fish fry and it's safe to say you have something for everyone.

Dinners range from $8.75 for pasta fagioli served over ditalini to $11.95 for chicken piccata, in which the chicken is sauteed with white wine, mushrooms and artichoke hearts in a lemon caper sauce, served over spaghetti. You know you're far from pizzeria territory now.

John, Pat, John and I made our selections from various parts of the menu, and all our choices were very good, of high quality and served piping hot.

Reasoning that we couldn't talk about a pizzeria without trying the pizza, we started by splitting a medium (the smallest size at 14 inches, $11.95) cheese and pepperoni pizza. The pie that arrived was cheese and pepperoni, but was also a large, and had a thin crust. It turned out that the order at the next table had been mixed up with ours. The server, who had her hands full, was extremely apologetic. We weren't complaining, and she made things right with the adjacent table, too. We dislike thin cracker-crust pizza, and this was far from it. The crust was slightly chewy and delicious, the sauce perfectly balanced between acid and sweet, and the pepperoni exceptional. The slices were smaller than usual -- closer to nickels than quarters -- and tasty, with a slight kick.

A small (8-inch) calzone ($7.95) was a hefty dough football, tender and slightly crisped, plentifully stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, sauce and one topping -- in this case, sausage. A small tub of red sauce on the side was extremely concentrated and flavorful.

The 1274 specialty sub ($8.95) started with a thin slice of grilled Delmonico steak topped with wilted dandelion greens and melted mozzarella, served on a cut segment of sesame-seeded French bread. The steak, with visible grill marks, was extremely tasty although it had bits of gristle. The dandelion greens contributed a hint of bitterness, smoothed by the cheese.

All those dishes were good, but the star of the show was a simple bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce ($9.95). The "meat sauce" actually contained roughly cut-up meatballs, and plenty of them. They were delicious and tender without being rubbery. The sauce was rich in flavor and slightly sweeter than usual. Hilariously, the deep bowl in which the spaghetti was served kept the middle next to molten. Even as we were calling for boxes to take the rest home, the half-bowl of spaghetti was still steaming. For all I know, it was still steaming the next morning.



Bruno's Pizzeria    

3 1/2 pennies ( out of four)    

"Tasty Italian"    

WHERE: 1274 Eggert Road, Eggertsville (833-6800,    

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.    


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