Like so many great recipes, it’s the ones that are passed down from generation to generation that endure and transcend. Culled from childhood memories of meals prepared by his Papa Bruno and Nonna Maria, non-fussy and rustic Italian fare is at the heart and soul of chef and co-owner Peter Serantoni’s Brunos Trattoria. Holding fort as an anchor of Brea’s Downtown, it prides itself as one of the city’s premier dining destinations.

By the most basic definition of a trattoria, Brunos is less opulent than a ristorante, but more upscale than an osteria. Low on the ostentation meter, it ranks high by focusing on seasonal, quality ingredients; maintaining a congenial, solicitous service staff; and providing a welcoming environment that embraces you with genuine hospitality. In the little over a year since they opened, already they’ve garnered double nominations for Best Italian Cuisine and Best New Restaurant at the 2013 Golden Foodie Awards.


A fairly new addition to their popular weekly specials, Brunos highlights the time-honored custom of gathering with loved ones and/or friends to partake in a hearty meal. Did we say hearty? We meant super hearty. At our visit for Sunday Supper, conviviality abounded with a lively group of old friends and new friends joined at a communal table. It was at once customary and completely acceptable to reach across to pierce at savory tidbits of food or to nudge someone unabashedly out of the way to get the first taste at something new and wonderful. At meals like this, everyone is family.

The Sunday Supper is a prix fixe shared menu offered at a very affordable $23.50 for adults and $9.95 for children 11 years and younger. Three courses consist of gridiron-sized platters presenting an aromatic mosaic of antipasto; trio of toothsome pastas; and sampler of decadent sweet endings. While Sunday nights are often met with dread — the weekend blew by far too quickly and suddenly you’re confronted with the drudgery of another work week ahead —  Sunday Suppers at the trattoria allow you to really savor the weekend and prepare for Monday on a much happier trajectory.

Antipasto Platter


Abundantly laden with marinated olives and fennel fronds, stewed peppers, bruschetta, salumi and cheese, and arancini, it was difficult to grasp the idea that two more rounds of this dimension were prepped to follow. Our taste buds started dancing as the proponents of sweet, salty, garlicky and earthy grazed our palate. Clearly the star of this ensemble cast, the plump arancini globes divulged a core of creamy, cheesy risotto; chunks of ham; and freshly minced herbs.  Dueling forks from our group fiercely pursued these golden appetizer nuggets.

Pasta Trio Platter


This triple threat of Nonna Maria’s Polpette, Gnocchi al Pesto and Penne Puttanesca beckoned with delicious, saucy abandon.

Cooked in a light tomato sauce, the hefty polpettes with their blend of ground beef, herbs and spices are special enough to be served as stand-alones in Italy, but here they were given an Americanized nod on top of spaghetti. We would have preferred our pasta to be a tad more al dente, but who are we to quibble. As the jaunty song played in our head, there was no way we were letting those meatballs roll off of the table and onto the floor.

Veering away from the tomato realm, we scooped the verdant gnocchi onto our plate. The tender and chewy potato “knuckles” were tossed with a puree of basil, pine nuts and a discerning drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The pesto, both vibrant and herbaceous, had a mild punch of garlic and we really appreciated the fact that it incorporated leaves of basil and whole pignolia into the mix to add a crunchy element.

The penne dish was a definite winner for us with its complexity of fresh roasted tomatoes, olives, garlic, capers, fresh oregano and chili peppers. How the term puttanesca became associated with whores is rife with many interpretations. It is quick and easy to make; possesses an alluring aroma; and is brow-raisingly bold and spicy.  So wickedly good, it keeps the patrons coming back again and again.

Homemade Dessert Platter

If we were able to time travel, we’d want to have this arrive first on the rotation. While pasta forgives some reheating, these exquisite desserts are best enjoyed in the here and now. We highly recommend eating them with a spoon to ensure maximum lapping capability.


The small mountain of Tiramisu with its delicate ladyfingers soaked in espresso; mascarpone and rum amalgamation; and fairy dusting of cocoa is what is widely known as a “Taste of Heaven”. The choice of rum over marsala adds more depth and pares down the sweetness. No one will judge you if you lick your plate clean.


Created by pulsing almond paste (not marzipan) with sugar as its base, this Almond Torte with seasonal fruit is very moist, buttery and a killer of any diet that you might have mulled over. Since it’s meant to be shared, partition it among many because a little bit goes a long way in terms of peaches and cream satisfaction.


The most difficult part about making Panna Cotta is executing the proper  texture and consistency. This one was silky smooth and had just the right amount of  wobbly firmness. Garnished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction and fresh fruit, it looked and tasted absolutely luxurious. Some would venture to say that this is the perfect dessert.


Co-owner Don Myer touts their Budino as the best that you will ever have and we’d be foolish to wager anything against this claim. Served to showcase all of its beauty behind glass, this caramel custard layered with chocolate ganache, whipped sour cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts has been Brunos’ crowning glory. There is so much buzz surrounding it that the Los Angeles Times had  to coerce an adapted version of the recipe, which they published here.

In our hectic world, we can’t commit to having dinner with our family or friends every night, but we can surely set aside a Sunday to share our lives, laughter and good food. The fine folks behind Brunos want to inspire everyone to celebrate old traditions and create new ones with their Sunday Suppers. In a time when we desperately need to slow down, these occasions that hark back to a simpler time, are becoming more and more of a welcome respite.

All photos courtesy of Ajenda PR

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