Brunello Trattoria in Culver City: Naples Born Owner, Family Run, A Must-Visit Place
I'll try to make this brief, but it's a necessary, long overdue report. Ok, first so you can somehow take me reasonably seriously (I only said reasonably, so I'm not claiming to be any perfect expert, but I don't want anyone thinking I'm a member of the Olive Garden fan club).
I am a self obsessed Italian food fanatic. My favorite places in town are what you'd expect: Angelini Osteria, Vicente, Mozza (prefer the Pizzeria personally, more down to earth), PIccolo, Madeo, Valentino, and Little Dom's (I know it's more Hoboken, but I'm a sucker for it) My family's from both Northern and Southern Italy, so I've been raised on all the soul gratifying grandma recipes. I go to Babbo when I'm NY, and I try to get over to Italy as much as I can save up for--At least once every two years.
Ok, so please believe me when I say that if you haven't tried Brunello Trattoria in Culver City, you need to.
There's been a lot of talk of the new restaurant scene in Culver City and understandably so, there are some great new places in downtown Culver (I should have included Fraiche up top), but no one seems to be talking about Brunello, which opened about 6 months ago about a mile east from Downtown Culver on Washington Blvd.
And I think I know why: There doesn't seem to be a publicist pitching, nor any payment to Los Angeles Magazine, not even any baiting of L.A. Times' S. Irene Virbila quite yet (at least I don't think yet) .
I work in Culver City. We order from Brunello twice a day for the office. I've tried almost everything on the menu and almost every special. I can tell you this place is the real deal and deserves some attention. A casual family run trattoria, with real, authentic Italian food.
The pasta is homemade and cooked al dente. They are never over sauced. The ingredients are fresh and local. The fresh baked bread is unbelievably distinctive and amazingly good (I do wish they wouldn't crisp t it up for the table when you sit down. It's good enough right out of the oven, soft and warm, or even soft and room temperature). The pizza is great and uses the same bread recipe for the crust (It's not super thin crust or anything, but it's just delicious). The recipes range from Roman to Neapolitan to Northern Italian, and most all of them bring you back to Italy. They even have good salads, which I don't even require of a great italian place.
Now, the ambiance here is not going to win any huge fans. It's a simple, clean, family run joint that hasn't been designed by the Dolce Group (thank god) or even by the guy who did Angelini Osteria. But it works fine. For good, passionate Italian food that feels like a little bit of Italy in Culver City...in Los Angeles, for that matter, it's the real deal. Brunello is from Naples. He's passionate about food, loves people who appreciate the passion, and has his whole family running the place. If you haven't gone, you need to go. We need to prove to guys like Bruno that you don't need a good publicist or a good buddy with open wallets over at Angeleno Magazine to be a successful Italian restaurant in this city. Maybe someone should give Jonathan Gold a call.
There was some mention of Brunello earlier. I tried it for lunch and loved the food. I had their special pasta that day, softshell crab with linguine. It was really delicious. The tomato sauce was slightly spicy, and it was a perfect portion size, not one of those gigantor portions.
A little expensive for everyday lunch, and all the wines by the glass are $9, no other option. The sangiovese I got wasn't that great.
It's a pretty large space with a big bar in the middle, but I remember thinking it would be nice if they cleaned the carpet, as some of it was noticably soiled.
The service was excellent.
I love this place. It's run by Bruno, the brother of the guy who used run the old Toto on Santa Monica Blvd. just east of the 405(Tonino). I think they use the same bread recipe. Bruno generally runs the front of the house and his wife is in charge of all the food.
I grew up eating Italian food passed down from old family recipes (my mother and uncle are the first generation out of Italy-- born in New York) and Brunello is like the perfect comfort food for me. The menu is simple, but almost every dish has that homemade care and love that just puts me in a good mood.
There are a few dishes I've had which aren't on the menu, but have been able to request every time I've asked. One, for something a little different, is a gnocchi vongole. Really tasty. The gnocchi are tossed in the sauce, but the clams are arranged around the outside. For gnocchi, it's probably a lot more convenient than having it all tossed together. Just tell Bruno (who is usually the server) that you've heard it's great and you'd love to try it. He's very accommodating.
Another dish I like is a deceptively simple salad whose name I've never known. It's a green bean salad with endive and tomato. Sounds kind of boring, right? It's not. Beautifully crisp and light. A perfect refresher for the end of summer. The only problem is you have to keep describing it until somebody knows what the hell you're talking about. If you get somebody other than Bruno, ask for Bruno. He'll eventually understand what you mean.
Actually, the only dish I've had which really didn't hold up to my comfort food standards was the arrabbiata. Usually the simpler stuff is so darned good there, so I was surprised to be underwhelmed on that one. But everything else I've tried has been wonderful.
Lastly, the reason I think the restaurant isn't mentioned in the same breath as the other Culver City spots is just the location. As Culver City continues to expand, Brunello's neighborhood will eventually be a busy area, but right now it's in a small stretch of ghost town(for Culver City). I only hope it stays open long enough to survive.
So I recommend everybody who likes comforting Italian food to head over there for a meal. It'll be worth it.
Well, Bruno used to own Toto on SM Blvd., then when it closed, he joined his brother as an officer of the company that still owns Da Pasquale in BH, yet he went out on his own once again in Fall of 2005 and opened Brunello Trattoria. He runs the place as he is also the President of the organization that owns it. See liquor license here: