Chef Janine Bruno never went to culinary school. She never planned on being a chef, she never saw herself hosting pasta-making workshops and culinary classes, and she certainly never saw herself competing in international gelato competitions. Even more so, she never imagined she’d be in a position to compete for the best gelato in the world. Over the past three years, Bruno has accomplished all of that, but now, she’s ready for her biggest and most ambitious venture yet.
Bruno is opening her first brick and mortar—Homemade by Bruno at 1245 S. 15th Street in Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood. The 400-square foot space, located at the corner of 15th and Wharton Streets, will be a gelato production facility for her retail clients, which she’ll also open to the public occasionally, and serves as a space for group pasta-making classes and other private culinary events. Homemade by Bruno will feature a custom pasta counter that can accommodate up to eight people, with additional counter space to seat another eight.
The shop will open to the public for a few hours on Friday, March 25 at 3 p.m., and Bruno will be introducing herself to the neighborhood by giving away complimentary cups of her award-winning Italian Rainbow Cookie gelato and Vegan Lemon Basil Sorbetto. The giveaway will last until sellout. After opening, Bruno will announce opening times on Instagram for pints of gelato and sorbet purchases, but her shop will not be open every day. Her focus will be on production, classes and collaborations.
Gelato will eventually be available as pre-made cups, pints, and as push-pops. Additionally, Bruno will bring in a number of businesses and restaurants to collaborate and make custom flavors and concepts, and she plans on offering custom “gelato cakes” in various sizes. Bruno’s gelato has been featured at Ember & Ash (pig’s blood gelato), at Kalaya Thai Kitchen in the form of push-pops, and several other Philadelphia-area businesses.
“I am very passionate about bringing other cultures traditions alive through gelato, and I love working with other brands and chefs to develop unique flavors for them,” says Bruno. “I’m excited to open, but I really want to share my concepts with the public. This will not be a typical scoop shop.”
Bruno focuses on Southern Italian cooking, featuring authentic traditions of the culture and the cuisine. She never uses machines, and all pasta is made by hand, from scratch, using the highest quality ingredients sourced from Italy. At her new space, she will host pasta-making classes, a huge part of her brand for the past three years. Bruno has booked lucrative, team-building corporate events, both virtual and in-person, and has been hosting showers, bachelorette parties, and other private parties to those interested in cooking as a group in the Philadelphia and Manhattan regions.
In 2016, Bruno was diagnosed with breast cancer, and like many men and women diagnosed before her, her entire life changed forever as a result of the diagnosis. While she was able to fight off the disease, it was the first of three obstacles she would face in two years, including the end of a long-term relationship, and being unexpectedly laid off from her job. That’s when she turned to cooking to help her cope. In late 2018, she created her brand: Homemade by Bruno. In April of 2019, she launched a website and hosted her first pasta-making party. In 2020, Janine was identified as one of the top-six gelato makers in America by star chef Giada De Laurentiis, and was also named the winner of the Popular Jury at the Gelato Festival America in the same competition. She recently competed in the Gelato Festival World Masters, which is held every four years and is considered the most prestigious gelato event in the world. There, Bruno secured a top-five spot in North America, and is now considered one of the top gelato producers on the planet.
“I’m so excited to open my pasta and gelato shop in Philly and finally have my own space that isn’t my home kitchen,” adds Bruno. “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it truly changed the trajectory of my entire life. I kept thinking about how I wouldn’t know I was very sick if I didn’t go to the doctor for something unrelated. Throughout it all, I stayed strong and positive because I knew I did not have another choice. Having that purpose and sharing it with others brought me back to life. I discovered a passion and talent that I didn’t know I had. It’s also very important to me to always be aware of what I am putting in my body, so I make sure to use only the best ingredients. I always say that I want to debunk the myth that pasta is unhealthy, and I’ll be teaching people about that, as well as the difference between ice cream and gelato.”
“Pasta and cooking literally saved me. I was in such a bad place mentally after my entire journey. I felt that I was without a purpose, and when I started to cook, it not only empowered me, but it brought me back to my roots. I had to start my life over from scratch, and when I create these meals, it’s the same thing. It’s all a bunch of pieces that you need to put together from scratch. It is so rewarding, and it makes people happy, and that means everything to me.”