If I didn’t know that Brano’s, an Italian restaurant in Cocoa Beach, had been around for at least a couple of years, I might assume that it was brand new and that the people in charge have no restaurant experience. That’s the impression I got following a dinner there recently. It was overall a pretty miserable experience, from the service to the food, and most of what was wrong appeared to be rookie mistakes.
The first red flag was the menu itself, which reads enticingly enough but is much too ambitious. Whenever I see a menu with as many items on it as the one at Brano’s, I figure the owners are trying to be all things to all people. The result, invariably, is that instead of doing a few things well they do all things mediocrely. Or worse.
Take the veal Ercolano, or better yet leave it. The dish, named for a town near Naples, Italy, that heretofore has not been known for its culinary accomplishments, featured a breaded veal cutlet topped with ham and cheese, similar to a veal Parmesan. But instead of a red sauce the Ercolano had a cream sauce with tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and spinach. Of those, only the garlic could be detected. The veal had the appearance and taste of having been breaded sometime in advance. I can’t say that it was purchased that way, but if it wasn’t, the chef has found a way to mimic the characteristics. Both the sauce and the pasta that it smothered had a floury texture.
The sea scallops arrabiata was much too bland for a dish that should have been spicy. The scallops were small, about the size of quarters, and even the handful of capers that were thrown into the red sauce had no flavor.
Although it fancies itself an Italian grill, Brano’s was out of stock of the one and only Italian beer on its list. How do you manage that? And another mistake I usually attribute to rookies: assuming that red wines should be served at room temperature even when that room is in Florida and not in a cave in Italy. Though even the proper temperature couldn’t have improved the less than modest Sangiovese.
Our server was detached and seemed to be able to handle only one task at a time.
Brano’s reminded me of the caliber of Italian restaurants that used to be everywhere in Orlando before the dining public learned what real Italian food is -- not just a plate of pasta with something else thrown in -- and how wonderful it can be when done right. Italian restaurants got better in Orlando because diners began to demand it. Here’s hoping the same will happen in Cocoa Beach.
Brano’s Italian Grill is at 3680 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to the website for Brano’s, which, for some reason, is found at HarvestFreshCoffee.com. The phone number is 321-783-6031.