You’d be forgiven for thinking that this day would never come, but at long last, Bruno’s Deli is open for business. The new lunchtime-only restaurant on Main Street celebrates its grand opening today, filling a big hole in downtown’s quick lunch options, something its parent company Bruno’s Little Italy hasn’t been able to do.
And “quick” is the operative word. Everything Bruno’s Deli sells that is ready to eat is sold in to-go containers. Sandwiches, even hot ones, are built to come out in a matter of minutes. There’s even a walk-up window on the outside of the building for those in too big a rush to go inside. If you need a quality lunch in a hurry, Bruno’s Deli delivers.
Yes, I said quality. While I didn’t get to sample the entire menu, what I had showed some good craftsmanship and attention to detail. Bruno’s Deli serves its sandwiches on some wonderful, fresh-made Italian bread that crusty on the outside with a chewy bite in the middle. The meatball sandwich I nabbed was the perfect size for lunch, with house-made sausage meatballs and Bruno’s famous red sauce from next door. And you won’t want to miss the freshly fried potato chips, either. Cut thick and loaded with potato flavor, Bruno’s Deli finishes them off with salt and pepper and a hearty sprinkle of grated Romano cheese.
There is one item that stands out on the menu (see below) as being odd, until you know the story behind it. It’s the Jimmy’s Poor Boy sandwich, but just a glance at the ingredients shows that this has nothing to do with the po’boys made famous in New Orleans. Instead, Vince Bruno tells me, it’s much closer to a grinder. But the name is still important.
“That’s what Dad called it,” says Bruno. “I don’t know why, but when he started selling them back in the 1940s, he called it a ‘poor boy,’ and we just wanted to keep the name going.”
That family tie certainly helps Bruno’s Deli feel like a special place. Bruno says most of the sandwiches the deli serves are identical to the recipes Jimmy Bruno created when he first started Bruno’s Little Italy back in 1949, making this some of the most historic food still sold in Little Rock.
“It’s awesome, it is awesome,” says Bruno. “To be able to share this story with everyone, it’s just really cool.”
Bruno’s Deli will be selling more than just prepared food. The deli has a small selection of Italian groceries for sale, including pasta, sauces, olives and oil. And if you don’t want your meal to go, there are roughly 10 seats available at a long counter inside the restaurant. But however you get it, you really should check Bruno’s Deli out. It’s been almost a year and a half since we first started talking about it, and now Bruno’s is ready to deliver on the anticipation.