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Pat Bruno Gets Snarky With MenuPages Chicago Over Anonymity

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 21, 2009 3:45PM

Last Friday, Helen Rosner at MenuPages Chicago caused quite a stir among local restaurant critics when her astute eye, while watching an episode of "Throwdown With Bobby Flay," noticed a judge for the episode named "Pasquale Bruno." This got Rosner thinking, "Why does that name sound familiar." Then it hit her: "Pasquale Bruno" is actually Sun-Times restaurant critic Pat Bruno. With that came the standard questions regarding the anonymity of the restaurant critic.

Yesterday, Bruno responded to Rosner. Following are some of the more choice quotes in his e-mail to Rosner

"Of course, practically everyone in the restaurant business knows what Phil Vettel and Penny Pollack and Dennis Wheaton look like. And, too, a few restaurant owners know what I look like--after all, at one time I had a cooking school here in Chicago, and also owned a chain of cookware stores and some of my best customers were chefs and restaurant owners.

"But what difference does it make should I be recognized? Will the restaurant in question suddenly, like magic, put out better quality food? Will inept service suddenly become "ept?" Nah. On the other hand, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been "made" while reviewing a restaurant.

"Methinks you have brought up a tempest in a crockpot. But then it takes a lot of gossip to fill up a blog. Keep up the good work."

For what it's worth, we think Bruno has a point here regarding anonymity. If you do this gig long enough someone will out you sooner or later. The contention here, however, isn't that some chefs know what Pat Bruno looks like. The contention is that if you're ostensibly charged with reviewing restaurants anonymously, you can't conceivably participate in "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" (even as an expert on pizza) and not undermine your standing as a critic. That Bruno seemingly did this in such a cavalier manner is what Rosner (and we) find shocking.

Besides, Rosner inspired Bruno to write some of his best work in ages with that response.