For nearly six decades, a family has been dishing out pizzas in Logansport – and attracting fans from neighboring communities and beyond. Now, Kokomo will get a slice of the pie.
Later this summer, a Bruno’s Pizza location will be opening in the former Gingerbread House Bakery building on Jefferson Street. For years Owner Gina Dingo Curl, who also works as the cheer coach at Kokomo High School, had considered opening a store in the City of Firsts, and after finding a partner to help carry the load, she decided to make the leap.
“Over the years we had talked about opening a second location, and then I started to see people that would drive over here. And then I’d bring pizzas to people here (in Kokomo), and I was just always waiting for the right partner to come along,” said Curl.
Now, the Kokomo Bruno’s Pizza will be co-owned by Jill Shively Van Horn, a Logansport-native and longtime fan of the family-owned business.
All in the family
Bruno’s Pizza was started on Nov. 1, 1960, by Mickey Dingo – Curl’s grandfather – with the help of his friend, Bruno Itin, who ran Bruno’s Swiss Inn in West Lafayette, which now is known as Bruno’s/Big O’s Sports Room.
Since then, five generations of the Dingo family have worked there. Curl's time at the restaurant dates back to her childhood. At 8 years old, her parents would have her hang out in the back room while they worked. Curl said she remembered sitting in the backroom in a cot with a coloring book while her parents ran the store.
“I was miserable because I didn’t want to be there at a pizza place. It’s hot and floury,” she said, laughing.
Curl grew up, and she never had plans to take over the family business. But, that changed. When Curl was an adult, she received a call from her dad. He had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and he needed help.
“He called me and was sick and said, ‘Can you come back and run it?’ And, you know, of course. I’m an only child. You don’t tell your parents no, so I did,” Curl said. “And then I kind of liked it. I was surprised. I took a lot of communications and management classes (in college), and I got to see people out and talk to them.”
In 2001, she began running Bruno’s Pizza, and while she did not intend to own it, she said the sense of pride she took in it continued to grow. She later purchased the business.
“What drew me to continue with the business was a strong sense of tradition. Most importantly, I loved seeing my faithful customers. I also cherished that Bruno’s gave me that tie or bond to my father who passed away last October. My mother had died six years earlier, leaving it down to the two of us,” she said.
Over the years, Curl has watched babies grow up and become customers with their own children. In addition to the relationships she’s formed with her customers, she said she always has enjoyed how the restaurant allows her to give back to her community. She’s known to donate pizzas, volunteer for different causes, and sponsor various events and youth sports teams.
Now with a Kokomo location coming, she plans to give back in similar ways here.
The business model at the Kokomo restaurant will be the same as the Logansport restaurant: carry-out only.
“My dad once told me an old saying that if it’s not broke, you don’t fix it. And I feel like our model works, and people like it. So, we’re going to stick to it,” she said.
The menu will be identical to the Logansport menu, though Curl hopes to make a couple of additions, including a chicken bacon ranch pizza.
“That really goes against my grandfather’s tradition, but times change, right?” she said. “He was like, ‘Pineapple on a pizza?’ when he was alive, and now we serve pineapple and ham. Sorry.”
In addition, the new location is located right on the city’s trail system, and Curl said she will put a bike rack out front. She was drawn to the location due to the renovations that have been done over the last couple of years along Phillips and Jefferson streets, and she felt she could add to it.
Now, Van Horn said she’s excited to join Curl as her partner in the new location. The restaurant is something she’s admired for years.
“I’m born and raised in Logansport, so we’ve been around for a long time to see what Gina and her family have done, have been able to do for our community based on the success of the business,” Van Horn said. “So, I think as cliché as it is when you open a restaurant to say that you’re excited about providing a good product that a lot of people enjoy, of course we really look forward to that. And we look forward to being able to mimic the community service that she does in Logansport in a new community in Kokomo.”
The co-owners anticipate opening the Kokomo location in mid-August or early September.