OC Review: Bruno’s Trattoria, Brea

Bruno’s Trattoria in Brea (Photos by Cindy Yamanaka, OC Register)

It’s 7 o’clock on Wednesday night. The air is warm, and Birch Street teems with life. The movie theaters sparkle like neon birthday cakes, casting their vintage glow upon the 7-month-old Bruno’s Trattoria, which enjoys a front-row seat to downtown Brea’s renaissance.

I’m running a few minutes late for dinner, and my guests are already seated. They’ve just texted me to let me know they’re ordering a plate of salumi and bottle of wine, “a really nice Dolcetto for only $28.” Their text arrives just as I’m parking. “Go ahead and pour me a glass,” I reply.

As I’m crossing the street, I hear laughter and animated chatter and strains of Frank Sinatra resonating from Bruno’s patio and echoing along the narrow street. Guests have spilled onto the sidewalk, waiting for tables to open up. The 5 o’clock movies apparently have just let out. Or maybe it’s last call for happy hour. Whatever the occasion, downtown Brea is clearly having a moment.

Perfect timing. The waiter is pouring my glass of red Italian wine just as I round the corner into the dining room. One of the coolest things about this place is the wine list. To be clear, it’s not a particularly stellar list – nothing cutting-edge or excitingly ambitious about it. It’s a short and simple collection of basic wines, mostly Italian. It won’t be winning any awards from the wine magazines. But I love the fact that every wine on the list is priced at a flat fee (well below market value) of $28 per bottle or $7 a glass. And the servers seem to really know the wines they’re selling. They probe their customers’ likes and dislikes, then enthusiastically recommend a couple of options. The Dolcetto is exactly what I want to be drinking with salumi at this moment…

…If everything weren’t so well-executed, I’d say this place was ridiculously boring. But familiarity can be a good thing. And the spaghetti and meatballs here is a very good thing, indeed. The meatballs are big and meaty and surprisingly fluffy, and when I cut into one with my fork, it’s like a small cannonball releasing a mushroom cloud of steam. The square-cut noodles are cooked perfectly al dente. I mean, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before, who doesn’t love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs?

This is merely a synopsis. To read the full review with the star rating, plus the slide show and all the contact details, check out this week’s OC Register. Note: As of April 1, subscriptions will be required to access the OC Register online. You can get one week of free trial access, but after that you’ll need to be a subscriber to read the paper’s content. 

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