Time for another Little Rock restaurant review!

Three days out and I’m still shaking my head over the dinner at Bruno’s Italian Bistro in West Little Rock. Rarely does a restaurant reach such highs and lows in one meal.

Things started out well with the complimentary bread and house made butter. We wolfed it down and our waiter thoughtfully offered another basket within a few minutes.

For an appetizer, our table decided to split a Caesar salad. Bruno’s classic take on this Italian restaurant staple was well-received by my tablemates. The dressing, with a subtle hint of Worcestershire sauce, rivaled that of the world famous Pietro’s in New York City. Unfortunately, a closer inspection of the salad showed the romaine lettuce to be browned and visually unappealing. This was not a huge issue, but a strong presentation to match an exceptional taste would have been preferred.

About this time, the second basket of bread arrived to our table. Regrettably, it was stale and moldy. And although the bread proved to be a terrible segue to my main course, I was still somewhat excited about the impending entrance of the eggplant rollatini.

Enthusiasm soon faded with the arrival of my poorly presented pasta dish. Thin cuts of eggplant were buried under a mess of cheese and marinara sauce, all resting on a pile of spaghetti. But here’s the thing, the marinara sauce was some of the finest I’ve ever tasted…anywhere! It had a perfect balance of acidity/sweetness and the chunky tomatoes gave the sauce such wonderful texture.

Eggplant Rollatini

However, the eggplant was bitter and had the appearance and texture of a Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert. Just two bites were all I needed to wave the white flag and scoop the rest completely off my plate; it was almost inedible. Once removed, I found that what remained of the dish was quite delicious, due in large part to the before mentioned sauce as well as the creamy ricotta cheese.

A quick bite of my wife’s pizzatola, composed of sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers folded into a slightly spicy tomato sauce, and my daughter’s lasagna, netted positive results. I wouldn’t hesitate to order either dish.

So…the big question…will I come back? Yes.

With Little Rock’s severe shortage of quality Italian restaurants, Bruno’s marinara sauce alone warrants a return trip. With generous portions, fair prices, and attentive service, Bruno’s exhibits signs of making it long-term. I just hope they can work out the other kinks. To be fair, my visit was a few days post-snowstorm and I’m sure the restaurant wasn’t operating at full strength. However, someone needs to tell the woman at the register to smile and ask customers about their meal. I often find it’s the little things that make a neighborhood restaurant shine.

Have you been to Bruno’s? Would love to hear your thoughts and any recommendations!


Thanh Rasico (Red Kitchen Recipes) January 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I just don’t know! There doesn’t seem to be anything extraordinary about it! Although my husband did say that the last time he visited with our daughters, the chef came out to introduce himself and his son whose name was very similar to my daughter’s Gianna. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us coming back if the food is good. But the Scott W. years leave us still not wanting to do business there. Just from bad, unforgettable experience. Ugh.

    The Mighty Rib January 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I really think their sauce is extraordinary, but no way in heck I’ll ever order anything with eggplant from Bruno’s. Some of the worst I’ve ever had…and that includes some failed home experiments during my early cooking years.

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