"Pizza – never met one I didn't like," stated my brother-in-law after a now-customary 20-minute wait at the much-buzzed-about pizzeria del giornio, Pizza Bruno. I thought the declaration of universal pizza acceptance unpretentiously refreshing, given how passionately pissy people get when discussing pie preferences. There's no doubting that pizza is one of those foods that really showcase American pluralism, and owner Bruno Zacchini is happy to straddle the line between purist and progressive.
The former exec chef at Third Wave – Zacchini is still involved with the New Smyrna Beach resto in a consulting capacity – readily admits his pizzas are of the "neo-Neapolitan" variety. That is, the fermented dough is scorched in a wood-fired, Ferrari-red Pavesi oven at about 900 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes or so, but the toppings comprise new, at times seasonal, flavor combinations. There's enough mod to entice tattooed millennials to shred a pizza topped with maple syrup, blueberries and guanciale, or charred peaches, romesco, pickled jalapeños and Volpi soppresata.
These are quality ingredients to grace a quality crust of the less-weighty, piping-hot, leopard-spotted kind – those pretty specks of char that lend the pizza its characteristic bitter notes. Pizzas come pre-cut, which probably won't win anyone over at the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana (aka the Pizza Police), but they do require use of a fork and knife.
In three total visits to Pizza Bruno, I'll borrow my B-I-L's phrase and say I've never met a pizza here I didn't like. Even when the price of one soared to $21 with a build-it-yourself assemblage of wood-fired pineapple, honey, mint, Calabrian chilies, fontina, pecorino and roasted red peppers. We've gone the BIY route ($10 for red-sauce pizza; $12 for white; $1-$3 toppings) on many an occasion – mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto and taleggio cheese ($20) is a fave of my wife's – but we've been equally gratified by the ones listed on the menu – the Amatriciana ($14), for example, with the requisite guanciale mixed with pecorino, red onion and Calabrian chilies, and smiley-faced with a farm egg. The blanca ($13), while not a personal fave, pleased the red-sauce-averse in our group with its mozzarella, pecorino, lemon ricotta, garlic, rosemary and arugula.
There are pizzas here to satisfy vegans (the $14 Viva Verde), masochists (the infernal $15 Crimson Ghost) and sugarhounds (the $10 dessert pie with Nutella, strawberries and almonds, which makes a better meal-capper than so-so cannolis). They're what Instagram dreams are made of, but all, even a cheatin' vegan, will agree that the Pavesi-fired garlic knots ($8) with "too much garlic," pecorino, chili flakes and oregano are simply ridiculous. A side of marinara comes with the knots, but I like enjoying them with the moist ricotta meatballs ($12), a recipe courtesy of Zacchini's nonna.
If you see folks noshing on olives soon after they're seated, that's because they asked for the complimentary bowl. You should ask too. Then get a locally crafted cold one and contribute to the already elevated level of chatter – the sound dampeners (disguised as blank framed paintings) mounted on the walls don't really make a difference. That said, there are no TVs (score!).
Oh, and while there is a phone number associated with the pizzeria, it rarely goes answered and will likely just ring and ring. So, no call-ahead orders and no reservations, thus the need to wait a good while before being seated, as it's perpetually packed.
Si, mi amici – pizza isn't the only taste of Napoli we get here.
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