“Bella Bruna” Cani opened Bruna’s in 1933 – the same year prohibition was repealed. The third-oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, Bruna’s quickly earned a reputation for serving up generous portions in a lively, neighborhood atmosphere. When she wasn’t cooking for her patrons, Bruna would dance on the bar while her customers sang. Bruna’s legacy still lives on through Chicago lore, and until recently, you could find her daughter Marylyn (Mickey), who passed away in 2013 at the age of 94, relaxing on a neighborhood bench when the weather was right.
In 1981, after falling ill, Bruna sold the restaurant to Luciano Silvestri. The two had much in common. Both hailed from the central Italian region of Tuscany and shared a passion for authentic Italian food. In fact, Luciano preserved many of Bruna’s original recipes, while also introducing several of his own family’s prized Italian dishes to the menu.
A native of Siena, Italy, Luciano frequently travels back to his homeland for culinary inspiration. He joined the restaurant industry at a young age, working extensively in Switzerland and London. Before coming to Chicago in 1977, Luciano worked at the renowned Villa d’Este resort in Como, Italy, as well as on the Sitmar and Princess cruise lines.
Today, Bruna’s is known for its wide assortment of pasta dishes, tender veal, and, of course, Bella Bruna’s original roast chicken recipe, still served every Sunday. It’s also home to what many say is the city’s best tiramisu, which Luciano makes himself.
Bruna’s offers an extensive wine list featuring mainly Italian wines with some Californian selections. Bruna’s also imports a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a wine made near Luciano’s Italian hometown. The Vino Nobile is offered by the glass and by the bottle.
You can typically find Luciano greeting customers as well as pouring wine and making espresso.
“Indeed, to step inside Bruna’s is to time-travel to bygone days: big plates, oil paintings hung in muted lighting and eager owners ready to proclaim “best in the city!” to just about every dish offered.”
“Regional northern Italian specialties mix with Italian-American fare and they don’t really have a specialty because everything is that damn good. “
Bruna’s is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city, and quite possibly the best. Their bread and olive oil melts in your mouth and the red sauce is simmered to perfection with just the right amount of salt. Make sure and save room for tiramisu.”
“Set in a “quiet” Southwest Side locale, this circa-1933 “landmark” serves “large portions” of “traditional” Italian fare “made the way it should be made”; the “tiny” “old-school” digs are “nothing to look at”, but tabs are moderate and “you’re treated like family”, so it’s “still a great haunt”, especially when you need a “comfort-food blanket.”