Firing leaves bitter taste for Sun-Times food critic
After 27 years and countless restaurant reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, Pat Bruno never thought it would end this way. Not with just a phone call from a mid-level editor of the Weekend section.
“It was kind of a punch in the stomach,” he told me Monday. “Very unprofessional. Very, very unprofessional on their part.”
Bruno, 68, has been around long enough — and seen enough cutbacks lately — to know that he had to be among the highest paid free-lancers still contributing regularly to the Sun-Times. But perhaps naively he believed he was entitled to a little more respect before the final check came as the paper's food critic.
“One of the higher-ups I’ve known for 27 years could not even pick up the phone and tell me the reason they didn’t want my column anymore,” he said. “All he had to do was say: ‘Pat, we need to cut some dollars. We really can’t afford you anymore.’ I certainly could have understood that and accepted it.”
Friday will mark the last appearance of Bruno’s weekly two-page spread in the Sun-Times — concluding with a note about his “retirement” from paper. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be putting down his knife and fork any time soon.
Bruno said he plans to meet this week with a designer to create a website and a blog where he intends to “keep readers abreast of what’s going on on the food and restaurant scene in Chicago.” He’s also continuing on radio where his reviews air four times a week on CBS all-news WBBM-AM (780) and WCFS-FM (105.9). And he still writes a monthly column (as Pasquale "Pat" Bruno Jr.) for Pizza Today magazine, which bills him as resident chef and regular contributor.
The author of five cookbooks and former owner and operator of a Chicago cooking school, Bruno said his work for the Sun-Times became his primary focus. “I knew I had a good thing, and I put my heart and soul in it. They don’t really understand how hard a critic works,” he said. “I did everything I could to be honest and above board.”
Bruno’s favorite meal of all time? That’s an easy one: “Osso buco with risotto alla Milanese at St. Andrews Restaurant in Milan, Italy.” The year? “1983.”