When it seems like time is hurling by at the speed of light and fast casual has become the norm, Anthony’s Runway 84 is slowing down the pace by reviving a steadfast commitment to meticulous service in an elegant ambiance. It’s going back to basics with its classic Italian dishes and its striving to transport patrons to a bygone era when dinner was a celebrated night out complete with boozy cocktails, family-style dining and after-dinner dancing.
When the Italian kingpin announced it would shutter for 7 months, devoted diners prayed the revamp wouldn’t be too stark. After 40 years in our community, Runways’s food was renowned, and its staff was more like family warmly welcoming patrons in for dinner. Fortunately, founder Anthony Bruno pledges that all the food is not only coming back but will be unchanged. That’s easy to affirm when executive chef Hilarcik, who’s been with Bruno from the beginning, is returning alongside his kitchen crew – some who have been with the restaurant for decades. The same familiar faces who were there when it closed in May, like Cindy, Toto and Vinny, will also be back.
The relaunch does mark the debut of two partners. Bruno is teaming up with his former Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza cohort Pat Marzano along with Marc Falsetto of Handcrafted Hospitality. Marzano and Bruno go way back – both New York transplants, whose families have been friends for more than 25 years. When Bruno was toying with his new pizza venture in 2002, he brought Marzano, a CPA by trade, onboard and together they opened 65 restaurants nationwide before selling the empire to a private equity firm in 2017. Falsetto has also been in the biz for decades; he was busing tables in his family’s Italian restaurant in Ottawa when he was 10. During the 2008 financial crisis, Falsetto decided to pause his finance career and go back to his roots with the opening of his first restaurant. Since then he’s opened 14 concepts and has brought Fort Lauderdale staples like Rok:Brgr, Pizza Craft and The Apothecary 330. Then in 2019 a unique opportunity to team up with master restaurateurs Bruno and Marzano manifested. The trio teamed up to expand Falsetto’s already successful Tacocraft Taqueria, which now has four locations and more in the pipeline.
“It was a dream come true. They had so much experience,” says Falsetto. “I’ve always looked up to Anthony and Pat and the things they’ve done with the brand and expansion. I find that tremendously amazing. I wanted to learn.”
Falsetto’s been conceptualizing an elevated Italian restaurant since college and says that from the minute he became partners with the trailblazing duo, he hungered to be a part of Runway. Well, when the pandemic erupted, Runway wasn’t geared up for takeout thus accelerating plans to come together to transform it into a swanky supper club, “a cool place that doesn’t exist anymore,” explains Marzano. The gentlemen tapped Miami-based Big Time Design Studios, famed for its hospitality-focused style, to modernize its nostalgic décor. While the aviation theme will be there in spirit, the airplane windows and kitschy interiors will be replaced with hand-carved wood, walnut ceilings and custom tufted velvet gangster booths. Runway’s old-world Italian soul will never change, it now just has a dash of Las Vegas and Miami glam sprinkled in thanks to this $3 million upgrade. “It’s going to feel like you’re stepping back in time, but in a brand-new way,” Bruno says.
Evoking the classically chic days of yesteryear, the refined Runway, laser-focused on delivering flawless hospitality to diners, will welcome them in for a long, relaxing evening that starts with martinis at the bar and ends with dancing to the nightly live music. The Rat Pack vibe is back and while we’re not really wearing tuxedos or A-line gowns out to dinner anymore, Runway will tempt you into donning a jacket or rethinking the flats.
“Fort Lauderdale is dying for something not corporate,” Falsetto exclaims. “If you’re looking for a true iconic, classic restaurant that will take you back in time to the old days of New York and Las Vegas then Runway is it. It’s never just dinner.”
While the old-world Italian flavors and dishes like the lobster fra diavolo, chicken scarpariello and linguine with clam sauce will all be back, there are a few new items to look forward to. It starts with the bar’s retooled cocktail program focusing on bringing back classic sips like the Rusty Nail, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite drinks, and it’ll feature an entire martini section with a variety of selections from dirty to espresso. Falsetto confesses he’s most excited to sit at the bar and sip on Cindy’s famous dirty martini. A new prime steak program is also being introduced with options like the 42 oz. dry-age porterhouse for two and the 36 oz. wagyu tomahawk for two. Tableside, diners will experience a Caesar salad preparation and as a final treat will be able to build their own supper club sundae. For Pat, he’s looking forward to all the seafood dishes, which he says have always been exceptional.
Runway 84 was already a restaurant when Bruno’s father took it over in 1982. Anthony Sr. was an established restauranteur in the northeast who had a vision for Runway and groomed Bruno from childhood to take over the family business putting him to work from busser to cook. “People saw the culture in the food as we opened up. We never really advertised,” he explains. “They found their way there. It was like home for them. We made it fun. It was always a comfortable place. I want to keep it the same way. Everybody knew everybody. It was almost like Cheers.” Runway was infused with family recipes that return to the menu like the escarole and bean soup, stuffed artichokes and the famous Sunday gravy with meatballs, sausage and braciole. One of Bruno’s favorite sauces that his father taught him to make, the filetto di pomodoro, is also back.
Runway’s famous Thursday night Meatballs and Martinis will resume alongside a new business power lunch menu by reservation only on Friday afternoons. It will also open earlier on Sundays for after church Sunday supper. Other new additions include a private dining room that sits 16 and a fully enclosed patio with 50 seats. Forty years of nostalgia may have been enhanced, but Runway’s reputation as the go-to for family dinners, birthdays, bachelor/ette parties and really any celebration continues. It’s those moments Bruno treasures the most.
“That’s the coolest thing of all. I see kids 45 years old come in that I knew when they were 5 years old. And then they want to start coming in and bring their families. That’s better than money. To see that, it’s just phenomenal.”
By Christie Galeano-DeMott. Photography by Eduardo Schneider.