The Perfect Pair: Paintings and Pasta at Ideale

Above: Head chef and co-founder of Ideale, Maurizio Bruschi.

Paintings characterized by their movement and texture line the walls, which perhaps lets customers feel like they’re roaming the streets of Rome. Ideale, a modern Roman trattoria, has been open for over 25 years and has continuously transported its customers to Italy via festive cuisine.

Art From The Heart

Maurizio Bruschi, chef and co-owner of Ideale, comes from a family of Roman restaurateurs. Growing up around his grandparents’ restaurant in Trastevere, Rome, he began cooking as a teenager. Maurizio first came to the US to visit his brother, but the visit caused him to fall in love with San Francisco. He adored the urban feel, the mountains, and the close-knit Italian community.

So, he decided to stay. After working in an Italian restaurant, Maurizio saw that he needed to bring more authentic Roman food to the Bay Area.

“He wanted to bring the kind of traditional cuisine handed down from generations that he grew up cooking in his Grandma’s restaurant, Serafina… while adding his own imaginative twist to certain dishes,” says co-owner Shanna Bruschi.

Maurizio opened up several restaurants before Ideale, but he decided to open this particular eatery to have a business with his brother. 

“They decided on North Beach because it was hopping at the time, and he loved the vibrancy there and was excited to bring truly authentic Italian food to the area,” describes Shanna. 

Shanna married Maurizio in 2000, but she explains that “I’m actually an artist, and I wasn’t involved in the restaurant that much until coronavirus hit.” By handling marketing, applying for government support, and managing the day-to-day, Shanna has effectively taken control of Ideale’s business operations.

When one walks into Ideale or the Bruschi’s other two restaurants—Piccolo Forno and Serafina—the artwork is eye-catching. These distinctive designs are created by Shanna. 

“Food and art both come from a passion rather than something that’s business-focused. They both are very expressive and come from deep inside us,” tells Shanna. “Just like a comforting lasagna or a luxurious filet, paintings can too be evocative of emotions.” 

Comfort Food Wins

“We have a really great community. Everyone especially now has pitched in helping out each other,” comments Shanna. 

Ideale’s neighbors also help out the restaurant by buying gift certificates and more. Since people can’t give high fives right now, the Ideale staff get similar encouragement when people walk by the restaurant, voicing their support.

Ideale is also known for its inventive take on Roman cuisine. Shanna recommends the octopus and fennel salads and has recently seen orders for comfort food on the rise.

“Our pizza, bread, and pasta are all homemade. We also have a homemade Tiramisu and other desserts that we’re pretty known for,” describes Shanna.

The Future of Ideale

Due to the financial impact of the pandemic, Ideale has had to let go of employees and cut down business hours. “Some of our employees have been with us for the whole 25 years. It’s like family. It’s hard,” says Shanna. 

After the pandemic situation, Shanna would like the restaurant to get back to where it was before. She hopes that all employees and staff will be able to come back. 

“We might try to focus on the younger crowd. To do smaller dishes and to continue selling fresh pasta and sauce with takeout.”

As the pandemic requires restaurants to create a “new normal”, Ideale has some plans in the works. These include to make nicer outdoor seating, space out tables, and further attend to people’s fears concerns regarding shared dining experiences. 

Still, Shanna and the rest of the Ideale staff remain optimistic about the future and believe in the power of the community.

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