Some days you just want to go for some old school comfort food, or at least an old school restaurant for some comfort. Saturday night, post workout, on day 20 of a modified Paleo diet and I’m ready for some grub; so I head out from the Loews Hotel down Ocean Ave to the reliable Italian at Bruno’s.

“You got a reservation?” Is the warm greeting I received from Signore Bruno. It wouldn’t be Bruno’s if I wasn’t the recipient of some old fashioned Italian humor – It’s how he lets me know he likes me. I know this because Bruno’s doesn’t take reservations.

I look around the room and it’s packed with families, a couple in the corner on one of their first dates – he dressed sharply and looking nervous, two old dudes in a booth talking politics, and three young bucks fresh from the Army, they’re haircuts are dead giveaways. They can’t be more than 21, because they’re all drinking lemonade.

Bruno’s is a perfect snapshot of society tonight. Young and old, hungry for dates, families, and old guys who are beyond caring about dating. The young bucks are laughing it up with Bruno who’s enjoying the youthful vigor they add to the room. He loves an audience, and these boys are perfect for his good natured joshing, a pleasant change I bet from the drill sergeant they’ve been living under.

My modified Paleo diet has me living with no carbohydrates, or at least minimal. No beans, bread or pasta – you know the mainstays of my life basically. So it’s salad, meat and some cheese. I’m pretty sure the cheese isn’t part of the Paleo thing, but my nutritionist has approved it so I’m going with it. Life without bread or pasta is different. I’m on week four now and I said I was going to do it for four weeks to see what happens.

I dropped about 10 – 15 pounds almost right away, and then hit a plateau it seems at 190 but I’m determined to make it to my birthday next Monday trying this diet. Overall I can’t say that it’s been bad. Whenever I’m hungry I have some cheese or vegetables. I’ve grown to enjoy the stability of energy that not having the sugar spikes has given me.

Considering the news reports last week about the way the sugar industry paid off researchers to transfer the guilt for heart disease to fat, I’m inclined to think the avoidance of sugar may be a better thing for my overall health than I had thought. I have friends who have given up sugar with a vengeance and they have lost weight and seem to be healthier so there may be something to the avoidance of sugary treats, and simple carbohydrates like bread.

So there I am in Bruno’s, trying my best to be a healthier eater, so no pasta for me, I decide to have the Caesar Salad with anchovies and a side of the homemade meatballs. I refuse the bread that he puts out, even though I love its crustiness and pillowy inside with butter melting all over it. I think to myself that if Bruno is like mom, he’s got breadcrumbs in the meatballs as a binder – and I immediately don’t care. There’s a limit, and I’ve reached it. I want the meatballs.

Sitting in a familiar restaurant, with an owner who knows me, and many of the other patrons on a Saturday night just felt so comfortable. I like being there when Mrs. Bruno comes by to check on me and see that it’s all okay. I’ve watched their son, mini-Bruno, grow from coltish chess champ to young man. I’ve even seen the booths get re-upholstered.

As our city continues to grow towards a corporate outpost of every major restaurant chain with the same overly salted, produced and packaged meals like so many variations on McDonald’s it’s lovely to have an old school place with personality and character.

David Pisarra