Chicken Tetrazzini & Toasted Ravioli at Bruno’s Little Italy

Tucked away on Main Street is a little piece of Italy that’s always been on the back-burner of my foodie heart. I’ve walked by the little gray awnings, wondering- how authentic is the food? What kind of customers do they attract? Is it formal? Would my parents like the atmosphere?

Having hit up a lot of modern restaurants with friends over the past two years, Bruno’s hasn’t exactly been at the front of my mind. Our city’s food industry has been blossoming like crazy so I’ve been distracted by all the excitement. But the time finally came to give this little gem a try. Ladies and gentlemen, I present: Bruno’s Little Italy.

The Dean Martin lyrics fit the mood just right. It was an evening in Roma– right in our Little Rock. We arrived early because they don’t take reservations. (Not that a Tuesday evening was much to worry about anyway). But I’m always hungry after work, so I was ready for some pasta by the time Renée met up with me. A birthday celebration with my foodie friend calls for some fantastic eats- so one can be a little hesitant when trying a new place for a special celebration. But we took the risk and decided on Bruno’s Little Italy– a restaurant neither of us had yet tried.

On special nights, we eat appetizers. In addition to the delicious bread, Renée wanted to order some toasted ravioli. This was my first time to try toasted ravioli so I don’t have any experiences to compare. It was pretty good though! I find it fascinating to see what different cultures do with basic ingredients. Pasta with a crunch? Okay! It was filled with ricotta and came with a side of meat sauce for dipping.

I went in craving spaghetti, but also wanted a taste of another sauce. After some debate, I decide on the Chicken Tetrazzini- a blend of pulled chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with oregano. This came with a side of spaghetti with meat sauce. And guys, it was delicious! I know I say that a lot- but this was amazing. It’s one of those sauces that screams for bread to be dipped in it- almost like a thick soup.

The juicy marinara meat sauce on the spaghetti served as a great contrast and palette cleanser. The spaghetti was soft and slipped right around the fork and into my mouth. It’s always a good thing when your noodles aren’t sticking together. 😉

I’m a mushroom fan so I may be a little partial to this dish. The balance of flavor between the fresh herbs and chicken collaborated perfectly with the creamy sauce. The chicken itself was cooked just enough- and the mushrooms weren’t slimy or stiff. I was impressed by the flavors in both sauces. I could detect different fresh ingredients. In general, I’m not a big meat sauce fan, but I couldn’t say no to that spaghetti!

SYNOPSIS:

The atmosphere of the restaurant is quiet- but not to the extent of white tablecloths and dim lighting. It can be an excellent date night choice, but is also a good place for a small group of friends or family members. The wait staff was wonderful. They are so nice and were constantly filling up our glasses and asking if we wanted more bread. In addition to our main waitress, we had two or three other people waiting on us and seeing if we needed anything. When it came time for to-go boxes, our waitress packaged that up for us.

The food is a little pricey. This is definitely a special occasion place for my wallet. But sometimes you have to treat yourself to a good time and authentic food. I really enjoyed my selection, the location, and the people. I was certainly stuffed when we left- and happy to have lunch packed up for another day. I’ll be back one day, Bruno’s!

EAT ON.
COLLEEN

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Pork Dumplings at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.

Cloud coverage in July is something I love. Another thing I love? Dumplings! So a combination of these + fabulous company made for a splendid lunch outing. With her days in Arkansas numbered, Lilly is hitting up as many food places as possible before moving. We met Mary at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. to do some reminiscing and chow down on some good eats.

As you walk in, follow the signs to the back. Yeah, it’s a little misleading that you go to the back of the joint to order, but that makes for nice window seating. I guess we can make the sacrifice. I like the simple menu. Basically you can get noodles, dumplings, or steamed buns- and you choose the meat and spice level of your dish.

The decor is metal and modern with white subway tiles and a warm touch of wood. I liked the sunflowers on the tables- a hint of summer color. The restaurant has an open floor plan feel with tastefully placed walls that allow for some privacy. I absolutely love the exposed brick, guys. I’m a sucker for that kind of contrast element.

I came in knowing I wanted dumplings. This was my second time eating here and I hadn’t tried them yet and people have totally been raving about how good they are allover social media. When it comes to dumplings, pork is my general go-to. And being the somewhere-in-the-middle kind of person I am, I chose medium spicy sauce. No extremes but nothing bland, thanks!

Chopsticks in hand (and a fork just in case), I carried my tray of ice water and dumplings over to the trendy table Lilly picked out by the window. She had apparently ordered the same thing. Mary soon joined us with a steamed bun and carrot slaw.

I was in love at first bite. Soy sauce soaked the base of the bowl, with spicy sauce on top of the dumplings. They were hot (temperature-wise) and perfectly plump. I found myself cutting them in half because 1. those little guys are heavy and packed with meat 2. I am not a chopstick expert and my wrists are too weak for heavy things. They were slipping all over! I did refer to my fork for cutting purposes.

SYNOPSIS:

The atmosphere was cool and clean and the dumplings were ready to grab when you walk up to the counter. At first, we weren’t sure if there’d be enough food to fill our tummies- but there was more than enough. I was stuffed! The flavor of the dumplings wasn’t overpowering and the spicy sauce gave it that kick it needed. The soy sauce wasn’t overly salty and only added to the pork flavor.

Aesthetically, as you can see, the colors are quite pleasing to the eye. The food likes showing itself off and is just begging to be chowed down on. We noticed that Three Fold really does the lunch business. We got there around 11:30 and made great timing with getting our food and having time to chat. In just half an hour they had a pretty decent line of people. The location being downtown near a bunch of offices definitely works to their advantage. People were grabbing to-go orders and sipping bubble tea all over the place! It seems like they know what they’re doing. Keep it up, Little Rock!

DINE ON.
COLLEEN

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos

It was July 1st (Canada Day) 2015. The sun was was working overtime and I was thankful for air conditioning. As Wednesday became evening, the excitement of a 3-day weekend was on our minds. So it only made sense to have a dinner and movie night to kick things off. And what’s more American and Canadian than a spin off of Mexican food that you can can throw in a slow-cooker for the day?

After shuffling through a few recipes I found a chicken taco winner! As usual, my version is slightly different. But you can check out the original recipe here.

Ingredients:
2 pounds of bone-in & skinned chicken breasts or thighs
1 roughly chopped onion
2 packages of taco seasoning (I used 1 regular flavor and 1 spicy).
1 to 2 teaspoons of chili powder (I used 2).
1 can of diced tomatoes (14.5oz)
1 can of water* (I used the aluminum tomato can).
1 package of small flour tortillas (I prefer little flour ones to corn).

Topping & side ideas:
black beans
cheddar cheese
cheese dip
guacamole
hot sauce
lettuce
rice
salsa
sour cream
tomatoes

Really difficult instructions:
Place chicken (mine was still frozen) in a large 5 or 6-quart slow cooker. Top with the onion, taco seasoning, chile powder, and canned tomatoes (un-drained).

*I added a can or so of water because I had to leave the slow cooker going longer than the 4-6 hours and didn’t want the chicken to burn out. Original instructions say to leave it going 3-4 hours on HIGH or 4-6 hours on LOW. I left mine 10 hours on LOW. So if you plan on following the original, extra liquid isn’t needed. I just took precaution.

After your hours of slow cooking have passed, shred the chicken with two forks. It’ll fall right off the bones. Pile some on a tortilla, jazz it up with some toppings, and enjoy! Add more chile powder or some hot sauce if your taco needs a kick.

Serves: 12

These were a pretty good hit with the ladies and myself. On weeknights, easy recipes are the best for tired an hungry bellies. I hit mine up with some rice, black beans, lettuce, cheese, and hot sauce. I threw some of the cooked onions and tomatoes on as well. The chicken was the furthest you can get from dry and soaked in just enough seasoning. If I can make them on a day where I don’t have to be out of the house for 10 hours, I’ll try the recipe without the water and see how much more flavor it gets.

COOK ON.
COLLEEN