When Doug Brohan was in his early 20s, he became a bartender at Bruno’s, the local restaurant and bar where he’d go for dinner with his family as a kid.
If you’d asked him then if he ever thought that 30 years later he’d own the place, he’d have said ‘Yes.’
“As weird as that sounds, yes,” said Brohan, 53, a lifelong Ronkonkoma resident and graduate of Sachem High School. “I tended bar at a lot of other places, but this place was like a sock on the foot.”
He did other things in between, including 10 years as a math teacher at Sachem High School, sports coach and mortgage broker, but when the opportunity to buy the restaurant came up in 2001, he and his wife Doreen (who Brohan calls “the real boss”) jumped at it. Their son, Derrick, also works at Bruno’s; and their daughter, Deanna, helps out.
“I’ve been here all my life,” Brohan said. “I love it here.”
In 1958, Herbert Bruno opened Bruno’s Village Restaurant on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma and it has been a community landmark ever since, Brohan said. It’s a family restaurant with owners that have always supported the community through fundraisers and providing space for events. It also has a long history of sponsoring local sports leagues.
Brohan thinks it’s important to carry on that tradition and make everyone feel welcome.
Dinner specials are geared toward families (burgers on Tuesdays, steaks on Wednesdays and big pizza pies — which is what Brohan said brought his own family out for special occasions). The bar never charges a cover; and the large general purpose room in the back is always available for a local sports team or community group.
TVs illuminate the place with the bright lights of sporting events, and every Sachem North football game is taped and replayed at the bar that night.
At any point during the week, Brohan said his bar is filled with regulars. A sign on the wall reads: “There are no strangers here — just friends who haven’t met yet!”
“There are a lot of nicknames in this place,” Brohan said, as he walked around the bar, patting patrons on the back and greeting them by name.
William “Woody” Worth, of Ronkonkoma, is one of them. Worth, 47, grew up in Holbrook and moved to Ronkonkoma about 12 years ago, he lives within walking distance of Bruno’s.
“It’s a real town-oriented place,” Worth said, listing the community fundraisers Bruno’s — and specifically Brohan — is involved in. “Anything that has to do with the town — and especially anything, anything that has to do with the Sachem school district — his name is on it.”
A couple of months ago, Worth, who works for John Hancock life insurance, brought in his manager, John Surace, who lives in Great River — about 20 miles from Bruno’s.
Surace said he’s been there a handful of times since, including when he brought his wife for dinner. The couple was impressed by the food. Surace was more impressed that even during his first visit, he never felt like a stranger.
“This is my spot now,” he said, perched at the corner of the bar on Wednesday night. “Bruno’s. Ronkonkoma.”
Pictured above: Wayne Brodsky of Ronkonkoma and Ken Regensburg of Oakdale have lunch at Bruno's restaurant and bar in Ronkonkoma, where they call themselves regulars. (Dec. 8, 2011)