By Phil Vettel
3:11 PM CDT, October 31, 2012
Chicago's chefs and restaurants lost a keen observer and tireless champion of their work with the passing today of Pat Bruno.
Bruno, 79, was the restaurant critic at the Chicago Sun-Times (which reported his death earlier) for 27 years. He was dismissed by the paper last September, and shortly thereafter revealed he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant and very aggressive brain cancer.
Bruno turned his diagnosis into a poignant piece for the Washington Post.
Pat and I covered the same beat for 20-plus years, though he was already well-established before I came along. We'd occasionally find ourselves in the same dining room, and would wordlessly acknowledge each other's presence. It was always fun to compare reviews on those occasions when we dined at the same time.
Bruno was a consumer's critic, ever-mindful of the cost borne by the dining public, and was quick to call out restaurants he felt had exceeded reasonable levels of pricing. But he also championed Chicago restaurants, particularly his beloved Italian restaurants, to the outside world. Years ago, when the Distinguished Restaurants of North America came to town to trumpet their new DiRoNA awards, Bruno berated the chairman, in the middle of the press conference, for failing to include a single Chicago Italian restaurant. (The next time DiRoNA came to town, there was an Italian restaurant on its list.)
And he loved his wordplay, once describing a spicy Indian dish as "a curry with the singe on top."
He also wrote five cookbooks (under the name Pasquale Bruno), spoke at pizza-industry conventions (pizza was a passion of his) and designed and marketed a pizza stone for home cooks.
Bruno was a class act and a good competitor. I'll miss him.
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