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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Gerardo Bruno, President of Ristorante San Pietro

Gerardo Bruno is President of Ristorante San Pietro, a landmark southern Italian restaurant located on Manhattan's elegant East 54th Street. Whom You Know has highly recommended San Pietro: An entrepreneur with a scholarly nature, Gerardo has remained faithful to his mission of promoting the authentic, historic cuisine of southern Italy, with its simple ingredients, classic food combinations and natural good looks.

San Pietro's elite corporate clientele can attest to the "grit" needed for any business to survive in the world's most challenging environment, Manhattan. They can also speak warmly of the European values and sensibilities that Gerardo brings to his restaurant: a celebration of the simple, unadorned treasures of nature; maintaining the highest standards possible; and treating guests like family.

Cuisine was second nature to Gerardo, whose father was Executive Chef of the cruise ship, the Michelangelo. Gerardo grew up on a sprawling estate in Salerno, in the province of Campania, in which food was nourishment for the soul and body. He graduated from Salerno Institute with a diploma in hotel administration in 1975. One year later, Gerardo and his brothers immigrated to the States, and opened up their first restaurant, Sistina, in 1984. Sistina became an overnight sensation, attracting such celebrities as Marcello Mastroianni and Vladimir Horowitz.

The Bruno brothers set their sights on a larger restaurant, and opened Ristorante San Pietro in 1992. Throughout the 90s and into the new millennium, San Pietro was a pioneer in bringing little-known Campania wines and dishes to the attention of the American public. By conducting cultural events at the James Beard Foundation, the Italian Consulate, the Amore Culinary Classic, San Pietro and other venues, Gerardo was the first Italian restaurateur in America to introduce the exquisite tastes of Branzino al sale, Colatura d'alici, Fave e cicoria and other historic Campania dishes. Gerardo became the unofficial "ambassador" of Italian cuisine to the US, and was honored by the Italian government for this effort to educate the global public on the authentic wines and cuisines of southern Italy.

Appearing on Food Network and quoted in virtually every important culinary publication, Gerardo Bruno is a member of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina and The James Beard Foundation. San Pietro has received numerous accolades and awards from Italy, including recognition from the City of Giffoni, renowned film festival venue, for "Best Italian Restaurant in the US" ; the Italian Government's " Most Authentic Italian Cuisine" and " Best Italian Wine Menu" awards worldwide; and Instituto Ambaciate Ambasciatori della Cucina Italiana "Best Italian Restaurant Outside of Italy" award. In the States, the restaurant has received WINE SPECTATOR's "Award of Excellence" for 2001 through 2009; the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences " Five-Star Diamond Award; Zagat Survey's "Award of Distinction"; and Chefs 2000 awards. We are absolutely thrilled to present Gerardo Bruno as our latest Mover and Shaker! As you know he made our Top Ten Best Dressed Men in Manhattan:

Peachy Deegan interviewed Gerardo Bruno for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: When you were growing up in Italy, how were you influenced by the cuisine?
Gerardo Bruno:  I was very fortunate to grow up in a small town on the Amalfi Coast where all the products where locally produced. My mother Artemisia cooked with passion and love and she made every dish an experience for myself and my siblings when we were sitting at the dinner table. It was there where I learned how simple ingredients can create an exceptional dish.
What surprised you most about the American restaurant industry when you arrived here in 1976?
I was very surprised when I learned that Italian cuisine had become so commercialized and unauthentic. For me that was unacceptable.

What has made you the most successful Italian family ever to come to America and excel in high-end authentic cuisine?
We always tried to give our customers the same experience that our Mother gave us when we sat at the dinner table to a delicious dish made with healthy and fresh ingredients. We always treated our guests like family. I think this was our goal and we have succeeded.

We absolutely love the lighting in San Pietro; please tell our readers who have not yet been how it was uniquely designed.
Our lighting with Swarovsky crystals and gold was uniquely designed for San Pietro by Italian Architect Dante O. Benini who was inspired by a sketch of Leonardo Da Vinci that reproduced the constellations in the sky shining over the Ocean. Architect Benini came from Milan with his amazing team and was able to create this masterpiece in only one week! It seems impossible looking at the beauty of this opera, but they did it in such a short time!

You have a great team around you from your brother Tony to Manolo to Sam and Krisztina the bartenders-how have you been able to build such a superior team?
I was very fortunate to meet these wonderful people. When you meet an exquisite person you can feel it, and that is exactly what happened when I met every member of my team. I knew they were going to deliver my clients their best, and they do, every day. It is a privilege to have them working with me.

What should the world know about each of your three brothers that the world does not know yet?
The only thing I want the world to know is that I love my brothers with all my heart and it is because of all of us together that we have achieved all of our goals.

You seem to be the business person behind the success of each of the three F. Illi Bruno Restaurants-what drives you to excel in this business on the business side?
I wake up every morning thinking of what we have created from nothing. We came here very young with a dream that was much bigger than all of us. Our dream came true and this gives me the spark to give my best each and every day!

You have the greatest stories to regale your guests with that dine at San Pietro. Would you like to share any with our readers please?
I will share all of my stories in my oncoming book that I am writing, few more days and you will know all of the stories! Stay tuned.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My Mother. She always gave me the strength to dream big, telling me that everything is possible if you really put your heart in doing what to love to do. Especially here in America,the land of the dreams.

What are you proudest of and why?
Everything that I have achieved and of a personal friendship that I have from Movers and Shakers American and International.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
One day...when I grow up I would like to be professionally wiser! I'm looking forward to that!

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Again, look up to my oncoming book. I'll give you just a taste: I have shared golf courses, tennis courts, lunches and dinners with Head of States, Dignitaries from around the world. National and International magazines honored us. Our latest award was "Most Authentic Restaurant outside of Italy" given us from the Italian Government.
What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
San Pietro.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
I don't have one. I have a personal tailor and a personal shoemaker in Naples which we use from three generations.

What is your favorite drink?
The Peachy Deegan of course, and the Brunello di Montalcino made by the Ferragamo Family in Tuscany.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
The funniest thing happened just two nights ago, organizing a dinner party in a private home for fifty women from all over America who didn't know each other. The theme of this party was "Free at Last." Turns out they were celebrating one year divorced from their rich husbands!
What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I actually have not one but three favorite restaurant in Manhattan : San Pietro, Sistina ,and Caravaggio. I have trouble choosing between the three of them!
I guess it is like being a father of three can you pick a favorite child? It's impossible!

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
VOX Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files by William O'Shaughnessy, a real Movers and Shakers writer and of course Too Big To Fail by Andress Ross Sorkin .

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
The section on fifty fourth Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue where San Pietro is located because there is a piece of my heart there.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
The Lance Armstrong bicycle race,"Livestrong." I enjoy riding those one hundred and forty miles every year.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Working at San Pietro!

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
The Phantom of the Opera.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I consider myself a fortunate person and I always try to share anything I have with people who are less fortunate than I am.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
I think there is nothing overrated in New York . Everything is GREAT here.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I find them all very entertaining and I am still trying to figure out if I have a favorite although of course I am predisposed to favoring the column: "I Drank The Peachy Deegan at San Pietro." I will keep reading and I will keep you posted.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
I tried the Peachy Deegan several times and I liked it! I will certainly prepare it this oncoming Summer in Italy for the enjoyment of my guests and family on the Amalfi Coast. (Here he is drinking it!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
They have to wait for my book. Sorry readers, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
By e

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