By Debra Bolton
Great Taste Magazine 2016 May June Issue
Bruno Serato Serving up his Greatest Passion
BRUNO SERATO OWNS AND OPERATES THE ANAHEIM WHITE HOUSE, WHICH HE ACQUIRED IN 1987.
Situated in a completely restored and historically significant mansion dating back to 1909, the Anaheim White House has been deemed one of Southern California’s culinary “jewels in the crown” and has counted several dignitaries, world leaders, celebrities, and regional culinary aficionados as loyal patrons for nearly 30 years. The 300+ seat fine dining establishment offers quixotic Northern Italian/French fare, an extensive wine list, and unparalleled service to create an elegant dining experience that is extraordinary, everlasting and unmatched.
It is interesting to note that the Anaheim White House was originally designed to be a private home when it was first built. The original occupants, the Truxaw family, who held on to the property until 1978, was headed by an obstetrician who delivered 3,500 babies at the
The Anaheim White House was saved on the eve of its destruction from being turned into
condominiums by Jim and Barbara Stovall, whose visions of saving the historic property became a reality that transformed it into an opulent restaurant that first opened in 1981. The Stovall’s ambitiously restored the home with every effort to retain the appearance as it was originally crafted using original existing furnishings, accessories and décor influences where possible. Most rooms still retain their original size and shape and a majority of the windows are originals, as is the brick fireplace in the library, which now serves as the main dining room.
At the age of 25, Bruno came to California to visit his sister in 1980, and stayed. “I like the
weather here,” he said, “And the kindness of the people.”
With only $200 to his name, he immediately began working in restaurants as a dishwasher. He explored the idea of opening his own restaurant and fulfilled that dream when he took ownership of the Anaheim White House in 1987. Honoring his Northern Italian roots and offering something special to the local palate, Serato created an upscale menu known for its dramatic and artfully crafted cuisine.
Several years ago the AWH recreated itself as an “Italian steakhouse.” “After 25 years, I thought it was time to shake things up and reinvent the restaurant, while not completely
straying from the concept that has earned us such a loyal following over the years,” said Owner Bruno Serato. “Nearly all of the pasta, fish and chicken entrees are still on the menu. Embracing this level of quality in terms of beef and game is a commitment. It’s expensive product…the finest in the world. Our guests expressed an interest in having us broaden our core menu to include more steak and game offerings and we’re delighted to serve them.”
Since its establishment in 1987, the Anaheim White House has received an array of highly coveted distinctions including a “three-star” rating in the Mobil Guide, the “International Star Diamond Award” from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences and top rankings in the Zagat Dining Guide. Bruno has a team of longtime employees he considers family who continue to help him make the restaurant what it is today. Sylvano Ibay, General Manager (Bruno’s nephew); Katie Ibay, Wedding Director; Eddie Meza, Executive Chef (29 year AWH veteran, pictured above); Franco Pafundo, Bar Manager, and Amine Aghamir, White House Catering Partner keep the restaurant ticking while Bruno travels the world promoting Caterina’s Club. In addition, John (Assistant Manager) has been with the Anaheim White House for 17 years, Maria (dishwasher) has “been there forever,” and about 20% of the staff (servers, back of the house, etc.) have been on the team for over 7 years.
What is most impressive about Bruno Serato is his kind and generous heart. He founded the nonprofit, Caterina’s Club (www.thecaterinasclub.org) in April 2005 when he and his mother, Caterina, who was visiting from Italy, went to the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim to tour the facility with his good friend and then-Executive Director Mike Baker. When they noticed a 7-year-old boy eating a bag of potato chips Mike informed them that the snack was the boy’s dinner. Turns out that the boy is one of thousands of “motel kids” living in squalor, and that the parents of these children often work late and do not have a kitchen in the motel rooms to cook. Caterina instructed Bruno to head back to his restaurant where he made pasta dinner for the kids at the club. He not only fed them dinner that night, but has served it to them every night since.
Caterina’s Club feeds 6,000 “motel kids” meals each week to ensure that the region’s most
vulnerable population — its children — receive a hot meal before being tucked into bed every night. To date, more than one million meals have been served. Serato’s influence has extended beyond the local area. Chefs in the U.S. and abroad, including those in Chicago, New York, Texas, Mexico, and Italy, who have learned of the program, have begun feeding
hungry children in their own communities.
Serato has extended his mission to moving these “motel families” into permanent housing and has already helped hundreds of hardworking families escape motel living by providing them with the first, last and security deposit required, improving their lives beyond imagination with apartments of their own.
His newest endeavor is working with the Anaheim School District to establish the Hospitality Program, which aspires to divert high school students from gangs and other bad influences, teaching them about the food, hospitality and service industries. Students will receive hands-on experience and paid internships as well as learn how to interview for a job so that they can explore careers in the field following graduation.
Serato draws his strength and inspiration from his late mother, Caterina, who was always working fulltime while taking care of her husband and 7 children. The legacy he wants to share with the world is this: “It is time to stop talking about it, and do something about it. If I can serve one million meals alone with my team, hand in hand together, we can
ANAHEIM WHITE HOUSE RESTAURANT
887 S Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11am-2 pm
Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5-9pm
Sunday Brunch: 11am-3pm
CHEF BRUNO SERATO – From Chef’s Mouth
KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL Blender
KITCHEN APPLIANCE Stove
CONDIMENT/SPICE Red chili pepper & black pepper
OC RESTAURANT Anaheim White House, of course
DISH TO EAT Mediterranean Branzino
JUNK FOOD French Fries
RAW INGREDIENT Lobster
FAST FOOD In-N-Out
NUMBER OF HOURS YOU WORK IN A WEEK 90.
1ST COOKING OR FOOD-RELATED MEMORY Spaghetti Marinara from Mamma Caterina.
FIRST JOB Dishwasher.
FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY Communication With People.
IF NOT A CHEF An Airline Steward.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE FOR HOME KITCHENS Chefs’ Toys.
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE Salmon with White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes.
CULINARY HERO(ES) & WHY Gualtiero Marchesi because he is the 1st Italian chef to bring Italian fine dining to the international sphere.
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE & LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES Italy, France, Russia, Czech Republic.
YEARS IN BUSINESS 29 years.
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE International, fun and colorful.
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE Family, family, family.
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS La Vie En Rose.
CHARITY AFFILIATION(S) Caterina’s Club.
ADVICE TO STUDENTS Make sure you have passion; without passion, don’t even try. Be prepared to work more than 40 hours a week.