Pizza’s just one item on the menu at this Indiana mainstay founded in 1955. Anyone up for Wiener schnitzel and Swiss fondue?
Bruno Itin moved from Switzerland to Indiana in 1951 and, after a few years as a restaurant worker, decided to open his own venture in 1955: Bruno’s Pizza in West Lafayette. “My dad was already a baker, so he knew how to handle dough,” says Bruno’s son, Orlando Itin, who now runs the restaurant with siblings Bruno Itin Jr. and Tina Wisman. “To this day, we make all of our own dough in-house—for pizza as well as our sandwich rolls, garlic bread, breadsticks, you name it!”
The special dough recipe also led to a game-changing discovery: Bruno Dough. Originally conceived as a way to utilize dough scraps, the dough is cut into bite-size pieces, then deep-fried, brushed with garlic butter and dusted with Parmesan. “That’s still our No. 1 appetizer,” Orlando says. “We sell a couple hundred orders a night.”
Bruno’s sold only pizza—cut with scissors, as it still is today—when it opened, and as of this article’s original publication in 2010, only five people had made pizza at the location in the previous 40 years. However, Bruno soon expanded the menu to incorporate Swiss, Italian, German and American dishes, many of which remain on the menu, including Wiener schnitzel and traditional Swiss fondue. Bruno even introduced franchising before it was popular. “My dad was really ahead of his time,” Orlando says. “Other friends and family would open stores with the same name, but there was no franchising setup back then, so he didn’t charge fees or anything.”
There have been some changes over the years: Bruno’s received a Swiss chalet makeover in 1970 and moved across the street due to a new highway built in 1998. Now the business also includes the Big O Sports Room, which fills up with families and Purdue students every weekend. Carryout business is also booming as people look for options on the go and try to save money. The Itin family chalks up its success to old-fashioned dedication. “You can’t be successful in the long-term unless you marry the restaurant,” laughs Orlando. “We always said, ‘We’re not going to be super-rich, but we’ll always have a job!’” –Tracy Morin