Vince Bruno to Bring Back Bruno's Little Italy

For Whispers readers who mourned the closure of Bruno's Little Italy in Little Rock last October and have wondered which reopening rumors were true, here’s the lowdown.

Vince Bruno is working to resurrect the restaurant in the vein of his father’s original eatery, complete with a window into the pizza-making area so guests can watch.

His father, Vincent “Jimmy” Bruno, first opened the restaurant in Levy in 1948, then moved it to Little Rock, first off West Roosevelt Road and then off Old Forge Road.
Scott Wallace bought the upscale Italian eatery a few years after Jimmy Bruno’s 1984 death.

Wallace owned the restaurant from 1988 to 2011 but closed the business at 315 N. Bowman Road last fall and is no longer in the picture.

Trouble for Bruno’s
“It wasn’t because the business was doing bad,” Jimmy Bruno’s son, Gio Bruno, explained to Whispers. “The business was doing quite well. There were other extenuating factors.”

Bruno’s paid taxes on food sales of $197,390 for 2011. However, according to Ionette Neal, senior director of the revenue collections division of the city of Little Rock, that only reflects sales for January-April because the restaurant stopped paying its taxes on food sales in May and still owes the city $7,429.

Gio didn’t elaborate on the “extenuating factors,” but Whispers surmises they might have something to do with those unpaid taxes and other debt.

The Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration filed liens against Wallace and his business in 2011 and 2012 in attempts to collect $26,451 in delinquent taxes, although two liens totaling $1,603 were released.

The Pulaski County Treasurer’s Office also filed a certificate of indebtedness against Bruno’s in January, pursuing $726 in property taxes.

Adding to the compounding debts, Sysco Arkansas LLC of Little Rock, a restaurant supply company, sued Wallace’s business in January for not paying $40,231 for products delivered to Bruno’s in 2011.

Vince Bruno, Jimmy’s youngest son, served as restaurant manager and head chef under Wallace for more than 20 years. Wallace owned the business during that time, but the Bruno family kept ownership of the restaurant’s name and recipes, Gio said.

The Plan
Vince’s plan is to select a location for Bruno’s by the first week of September and open it by the end of 2012, just over a year since the eatery closed, Gio said.

“He’s kind of taking his time. He doesn’t want to make a mistake,” he said.

Gio and another brother, Jay Bruno, grew up working in their father’s restaurant, but plan to work with Vince only as advisers.

Vince said he was scouting out rentable facilities in North Little Rock and Little Rock for the new Bruno’s, but would probably pick a Little Rock spot.

“He has a finance company that is willing to lend him what he needs in order to reopen, as opposed to having another partner,” Gio said. “So it brings it back to the family, in that sense.”