Pleasanton's downtown is a hidden gem. This is a
suburban city just east of Oakland, with 2 Interstates
running alongside it (I-580 & 680), and the normal
compliment of huge freeway-oriented Calif.-style malls,
and yet, they have managed to keep/rejuvenate a vibrant
and classy downtown, home to a good number of very nice
We discovered the area a few years ago--it's off the
beaten track, about 3 miles south of 580. It is in a
strategic location for dining: on the way home from
SF/Oakland and far enough from home (about an hour)
that if you're ready to eat you don't want to wait that
long. Downtown is a huge improvement over the "easy"
alternative of one of the usual chains next to the
freeway and well worth the extra few miles. (Although
there is one fabulous Chowhound alternative next to 580
in Pleasanton, but that's another story I'll save for
Bruno's is a fun place. Located on Main Street, most
of the way to the south end of downtown (take the Santa
Rita exit from 580), from the front it looks like a
dive or a pizza parlor (and they do indeed have pizza).
You enter thru the kitchen and run a gauntlet of host,
waitstaff, and kitchen staff, all the while thinking
"this doesn't look very promising"--then you emerge
into the rear, a large room all of glass, very open &
nice. I've never been during the day, so I can't vouch
for what one might see thru that glass, but at night it
is very spacious. Lighting is just right for
me--plenty to see what I'm eating, but not glary & low
enough for the candles on the tables to add to the
Tonight I had the cheese ravioli with a lightly curried
cream sauce with basil, tomato chunks, and mushrooms in
evidence. The cream sauce was quite delicate and
overall the dish was tasty. A few of the ravs had
dried out a bit on top, which I remedied by spooning
the sauce over them. Starter was a salad--mixed
greens, cuke, some garbanzos & a pepperoncini,
complemented by a house Italian dressing that evidenced
dried tomatoes. Elise had minestrone to start--an
excellent vegetarian version, then a dish of penne with
a marinara sauce, and chunks of cajun-spiced chicken
and spicy sausage, very much to her liking. She has a
hard time dining out due to allergies to milk and corn,
and I'm happy to report that they were exceptionally
good with this, even substituting the sauce on the
penne dish to avoid cream.
Service was first rate--if you wind up a Bruno's, ask
for one of Sabrina's tables.
A nice, layered latte left me alert and in the mood for
the drive home to Modesto through the pouring rain.
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