Bruno's of Brooklyn plans a move, to join First Street restaurant row in downtown Fort Myers
Bruno’s of Brooklyn is joining restaurant row along First Street in downtown Fort Myers.
The popular Italian eatery will move from its Second Street location sometime early to mid-2024, said Cal Bruno. Cal and his wife Genevieve purchased the building at the corner of First and Dean streets nine days before Hurricane Ian. The building cost $1.2 million, according to Lee County property records.
Cal Bruno thought he would never have to leave the building where he opened the restaurant in 2014, but things change.
“We were forced to take destiny into our own hands,” he said. “We have 3 ½ years to leave, but we won’t be there that long.”
The First Street building now houses three criminal attorney offices on the second floor. The office of the attorney on the first floor was destroyed by Hurricane Ian’s storm surge, Cal Bruno said.
The Brunos were selective on picking the site. He said it will be their last move. He called the selection a no-brainer and the site the second-best corner on First Street.
He considers the north corner of First and Dean where Ford’s Garage sits as the best because it has a larger footprint.
The Brunos presented their pre-application plans to the city earlier in January. They now will finalize the drawings. He doesn’t expect to have the opposition he had when getting approval for a McGregor Boulevard food park he will build.
The First Street already has a conditional-use as a restaurant. It housed the Big Elephant during the 1940s, Cal Bruno said.
The First Street restaurant will have more seating than the current restaurant, but Bruno said the restaurant will continue to have an intimate feel. The current restaurant has about 60 seats when you include outdoor tables.
The new restaurant will accommodate private parties on the second floor. Bruno’s turns away a lot of business because it doesn’t have the space for large parties.
The Brunos also will use the second floor for a new idea. People will move to the second floor if they want dessert.
The restaurant will incorporate some of the history that remains inside.
“We will pay homage to a lot of the history in there,” he said. Plans call for reclaiming a working fireplace. It also will convert a two-story bank vault to a wine vault.
We will pay homage to a lot of the history in there.Cal Bruno, owner, Bruno's of Brooklyn
There already are at least a dozen restaurants along First Street, or nearby, seven owned by the Kearns Restaurant Group.
The competition is good, Cal Bruno said. He calls the Kearns Group a plus. They share a lot of customers.
“We are in a special place here. You can honestly say there’s not enough restaurants in downtown,” Cal Bruno said.
Nils Richter, who is one of the partners in the Kearns Restaurant Group, welcomes Bruno’s.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “They’re good people. We will be excited. They are not competition. They bring more variety. It’s good to have them.”
The Brunos will be building the McGregor food park simultaneously with the restaurant. Cal Bruno doesn’t see that as a problem. There’s very little construction at the park compared to the First Street property, he said.
Besides, the couple — Cal, who was an architect and Genevieve, a bond trader in New York City — said they are used to doing multiple projects at the same time.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “We love the hustle and bustle.”
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