It used to be that the monthly trips I took to see my family in San Diego provided a breather from my food-centric world in Los Angeles. Lately, however, I’ve grown more interested in seeking out my hometown’s latest and greatest bites in between home cooked meals at mom’s and grandma’s. I owe much of my newfound excitement for San Diego’s dining scene to Erin Jackson, a Serious Eats writer covering the city’s edible beat.
Her recommendations have brought me to Hodad’s for its gluttonous double bacon cheeseburger, to Crest Cafe for its heart-stoppingly good butter-stuffed burger, and most recently, to Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano for standout Neopolitan-style pies.
Family owned and operated, Pizzeria Bruno opened in North Park in 2009. The restaurant’s centerpiece is a domed, wood-fired brick oven custom built in Naples, whose temperature can reach more than 900 degrees. The oven is manned by a VPN-certified pizzaiolo named Peter.
Joining me for dinner was The Astronomer, my mom, and my grandma. Having Bà Ngoại‘s colorful commentary and hearty appetite at the table made this meal especially memorable.
My mom chose the market salad ($8) for us to share as an appetizer. It was comprised of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, and olives dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano. The Astronomer and I hardly ever order salads when we go out, so it was nice having Mom around to make sure that we got a serving of healthy greens before gorging on decadent pies. Thanks, Mom.
Two pizzas would’ve sufficed for our party of four, but we went ahead and ordered three for variety’s sake. I appreciated that the pizzas arrived in a staggered fashion, with seven or so minutes between each one. I also loved that the milder pizzas came first and the punchiest one arrived last. Pizzeria Bruno has their timing down pat.
The first pie to come out of the oven was the Lasagne ($15). It was topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, prosciutto cotto, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The toppings were incredibly rich, but well balanced by the sunny sauce made of San Marzano tomatoes.
The crust was crisp and chewy in all the proper places, and wasn’t overly charred. The crust couldn’t hold up to the heavy toppings toward the center of the pie, but no one seemed to really mind. For me, the mark of a great crust is whether or not the end pieces are worth eating once the toppings are long gone. I ate every last end piece this evening.
My mom’s favorite pizza was the Blanco ($15), which came topped with mozzarella, Gorgonzola, garlic, roasted onions, pancetta, and arugula. This sauce-less wonder wowed us with its delightful combination of ingredients—the Gorgonzola, arugula, and pancetta provided interest and bite, while the onions, garlic, and mozzarella rounded out the flavors.
The final pizza was my grandma’s favorite. The Campania ($16) was topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fennel sausage, roasted onions, and cremini mushrooms. We added some Italian anchovies ($2) to the mix because grandma loves her salty fishes even more than I do. The locally made fennel sausage shined brightest in the sea of standout toppings. I was pleasantly surprised that the sausage and anchovies paired so tastily together.
We shared the house-made cannoli ($5) for dessert. Unlike the last cannoli I sampled at Mike’s Pastry in Boston, this one didn’t give me a toothache. The smooth ricotta filling was just sweet enough, while the pastry shell was fresh and crisp.
Pizzeria Bruno is a must-try for pizza lovers visiting or living in San Diego.
Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano
4207 Park Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92103-2512