It's not surprising that cute little Brucie is a hit among Cobble Hillers, but now we can also attest that it passes the Long Island Parents Test. Seated at a Formica table between a freezer packed with local ice cream and shelves lined with pantry supplies, my mom happily exclaimed, "It's funky in here!" She pointed out the bold black and white tiles on the back wall, the mod ceiling fans above, and mismatched wallpaper—and was especially taken by the little dog-faced purse-hooks tacked under the bar. Though we were seated in chairs, the majority of the seating is comprised of black, ergonomic stools, which look great but might be difficult to relax in. My dad told me to make a mental note of these "ass-molded seats" for my review. Check.
Brucie is set up as part-restaurant/part-gourmet grocery, but shopping kind of feels like standing up at a dinner party to poke around the fridge or the pantry. That said, the young staff and clubhouse-y vibe of the place apparently made my folks feel right at home, because they walked around and perused the goods until our server brought out some savory soppresata and ricotta pastries ($7) and a market Caesar salad ($11), topped with smoky grilled scallions, sweet butternut squash, and crisp wafers made of toasted almonds. Mom and I agreed that throwing some fried orange slices on the garlicky tuna crostini ($10) was a delicious idea. For our next course, I noshed on a panelle sandwich and enjoyed the layers of ricotta, peppers and honey—but at $9, it cost twice as much as the preeminent panelle special at Ferdinando's down on Union and didn't taste twice as good. (Granted, Ferdinando's has been around for about 100 years—literally—and probably has a better deal on rent.) The night's winning dish was a bountiful bowl of house-made tagliatelle with sweet corn, Brussels sprouts, rich tomato butter and impossibly creamy burrata ($14), but the pork and butternut squash lasagna ($17) and chicken francaise ($17) were nothing to scoff at.
For dessert, we ordered the $8 fruitcake (which was listed as "Sticky Toffee Fruit Cake Holiday Extravaganza Fun Time," in case asking for plain old "fruitcake" doesn't make you feel fruity enough), along with the lemon pie ($7). The tasty portions were big enough to share, but—like most of the menu —they felt slightly pricy for such rustic, homespun fare. Still, I was charmed by the "funky" space, the warmth of the staff, and the promising Italian-American menu and can't wait to see what old-school meets new-school dishes the future months bring.