Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bruno's: my favorite pizza ever, hands down

I come from South Jersey, a land populated by strip malls, regular malls, gas stations, diners, and the ubiquitous WaWa. About 8 blocks from my parents' house is a little pizza place/restaurant next to a small liquor store. For years this pizza place changed hands, never quite catching on in this strange location. The parking lot is small and most of the cars belonged to people popping into Shirey's Liquors to pick up lotto tickets or a case of Honey Brown. That all changed when Bruno moved in.

Bruno is almost a caricature of a pizza shop owner - skinny, Sicilian, bushy moustache, thick accent, always in a rush. He has poster-sized photos of his daughter and grandchildren on the wall and his son, Moses is behind the counter dealing with all the impatient South Jersey folks who just want their large cheese pie and order of mussels in red.

Bruno's Pizza is one of the greatest loves of my life. I want it every time I get near South Jerz. My sister demands it (rightfully so) every time she visits from grad school. And we're not alone. Good luck finding a spot in the parking lot on a Friday night. Try to get a pie before a big event, like the Superbowl, and you'll be in line with 50 other people, straining your ears to hear your number called.

There's a certain lazy etiquette to picking up a to-go order at Bruno's. When you call, they give you a number. If you are me, you almost immediately forget it. If it's summer, you can walk right into the pizzeria portion of Bruno's and approach the counter. In the winter, you have to walk through the breezeway, into the second door, past the dining room and fish tank and hang a left into the pizzeria. There will usually be between 3 and 10 people hanging out, waiting. First timers try to march right up to the counter, but that's not really how it's done there. You have to linger for a while. Moses will at some point catch your eye and say "What number?" and that's your cue to head up to the counter and tell him that you forget but you had the large cheese and the large onions and mushrooms. A large pie runs between $10-$15 at Bruno's, and is worth double that.

Usually, Bruno will be around, kissing the cheeks of women, shaking the hands of men, indulging the broken Italian phrases people tend to offer. My parents claim he's known my sister and I since we were kids, back when he ran Carousello. They tell stories of Bruno scooping us up and taking us into the kitchen to run around and play. I hope they're telling the truth because I like the idea of having history with Bruno and his amazing food. Once you taste this pizza, you'll know it is only logical to include it in every milestone. We had Bruno's when both of us graduated high school. I had Bruno's on my 21st birthday. College graduation, getting a job, losing a job, breakups, falling in love - Bruno's pizza had been part of it all. What's more, my sister and I have decided that should either of us ever marry, our rehearsal dinners will be held at Bruno's. We agree that if we are to start new lives, there must be Bruno's.

Down to the matter at hand: the pizza. Bruno's pizza is thin crust, if slightly doughy. The cheese is well proportioned and doesn't overwhelm. His sauce is the secret to his success - I don't know what it is that he seasons it with, but it's perfect. I would eat the sauce alone, as a side dish. Where Bruno's Pizza scores the most points with me is that the pizza does not lose any integrity once the toppings get piled on. With some places you have a slice of cheese and a slice with a topping and you'd be surprised that they came from the same state, let alone the same shop. Bruno's rises above this (it's got to be the sauce) to be even better with toppings. I recommend getting a pie with onions and mushrooms. Onions still in rings, not chopped up like those crappy Pizza Hut style offerings, and big pieces of mushrooms. Absolutely wonderful.

Bruno offers endless options, so you don't have to stick to the basics to get a good pie. A word to the wise: if no one else wants pizza and you decide to go with the traditional solo pizza option: the pizza turnover, be warned that it is bigger than your head. And it's unstoppably delicious. Just get extra sauce on the side. You know, for later.

Bruno's Pizza
509 Hopkins Rd.
Haddonfield, NJ (i don't know how this could be Haddonfield. It's actually Westmont area)


  1. I would kill for a Bruno's tomato pie. Like, seriously kill.

    It amazes me that NOLA is FULL of Sicilians who all own restaurants and make the most terrible Italian food ever (they can't help it, they're Sicilian), but not a single place down here sells a Sicilian pie. Man.

    Need anyone ... "taken care of"?

  2. I feel bad that I neglected to mention the tomato pie in my review. It's unstoppably amazing.

    I love taking pizza snobs to Bruno's and watching them be converted.