No matter what his job or the country where he lived, Bruno Tomaszewski always found a way to the kitchen.
The namesake of Bruno’s European Restaurant , Tomaszewski’s love for cooking began as a child in Poland where instead of playing with his siblings he preferred to cook with his grandmother.
“Whenever he was with friends, always he was the one preparing the food,” said Krystyna Tomaszewska, his wife of 30 years.
Seated at a table in the couple’s Lakewood restaurant – a slice of their delectable cheesecake in front of them – the couple switched between English and Polish as they shared the evolution of Bruno’s European Restaurant from a four-table hole in the wall on Pacific Highway to its current location at 10902 Bridgeport Way SW.
The couple moved to Washington after visiting their son and falling in love with the trees, mountains and water.
At the time they were operating a successful restaurant in New Jersey focused on seafood dishes and chowders – a reflection of time spent in Greece – but closed it to move to the Pacific Northwest.
Money was tight, so the couple didn’t immediately get back into the restaurant business. Finally when the timing was right, they kept it small.
“I don’t even know if we should call this (a) restaurant because it’s only four tables,” Krystyna laughed about the tiny restaurant the couple started in Lakewood.
They modeled the business off a typical Southern European restaurant – some place small where diners are part of the family.
“Bruno never wanted big place,” Krystyna said.
Before the doors opened word spread about Bruno’s thanks to a newspaper article in The News Tribune. The first day the couple ran out of food. The same thing happened the next day.
That’s when they knew they had something special.
Despite relocating twice – to Parkland and back to Lakewood in 2015 – two things never changed: authentic cuisine and family atmosphere.
The cuisine is so true to the couple’s Eastern European roots that German-born diners who now live in and around Lakewood place Bruno’s at the top of their dining list when they crave dishes from home.
The best compliment Bruno receives is when diners tell him “your food is like my mom,” he said in his heavy accent.
The nostalgia for traditional Eastern European dishes extends beyond those born and raised there. The restaurant is a perfect destination for military service members and their families stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord who formerly lived overseas and long for Pierogis – filled dumplings – or a perfectly prepared schnitzel.
No corners are cut in Tomaszewski’s kitchen – his chefs learn that quickly. All ingredients are fresh and prepared traditionally. He doesn’t skimp on preparation to save time.
The golden breading on his schnitzel doesn’t come from a box. Loaves of bread are cut and dried overnight and then crisped in an oven before their transformation into a textured dust used to batter the perfectly flattened pork loin.
The care that goes into making each dish in the kitchen is extended to the front of the house, where every customer is treated like family.
“We love this place, we love our customers,” Krystyna said. “We really get a lot of appreciation from the community here.
“It’s like family, I think. They feel like family.”
Because of its one-of-a-kind dining experience and its commitment to serving the Lakewood community the Lakewood City Council recognizes Bruno’s European Restaurant as its September 2017 Business Showcase.