Sunnyside historian unveils new twist to story of famous curly fries


Grayson Salomon '22

Once found at only few locations, curly fries are a now popular side dish at many restaurants.

Brandon Saavedra '24

Curly fries are the golden-orange brother of the famous French fries, with mouth- watering seasoning blends and garlic powders.

Bruno’s Creamery in Sunnyside, which was well-loved and well-patronized, at the corner of Monterey Boulevard and Foerster Street, owes its fame to the kind-hearted owner, Bruno Cappa. The place was also famous for serving curly fries, 40 years before it was put on the menus of fast food restaurants, according to Sunnyside historian Amy O’Hair.

“While researching local history, I often talk to people who used to live in the neighborhood of Sunnyside when they were kids, and they tell me about the things they especially remember,” O’Hair said.

“I heard about the little restaurant on Monterey serving curly fries in the 1950s and 1960s from several people, so I knew there must be a real story there, not just one person’s recollection.”

She continued, “Everyone said they were available there long before they became famous by being on the menu of a well- known national fast-food chain. All that meant it sounded like a special local story.”

According to those who visited there, “The restaurant was a pretty mediocre place, a narrow space with a counter on the right, and a pinball machine in the back. As the years passed, it acquired appliances such as grills, and a donut fryer.”

There was also a machine to make his famous curly fries.

According O’Hair, who wrote the article on the Sunnyside History Project website, “Bruno’s Creamery: Sunnyside’s Legendary Midcentury Corner Soda Fountain” “I liked learning that the way Bruno made his curly fries was by using a simple metal machine that clamped onto the counter-top and was hand- cranked. You put the potato in, turned the crank, and out came the spirals, then you fried them like regular French fries. He didn’t need anything fancier. In addition to the famous curly fries, Bruno served the usual fountain drinks, ice cream, banana splits, milkshakes, hamburgers, and donuts.

In 1973, Bruno was in his early sixties, and it was time to retire. He sold the business to Richard Ballesteros, and it was called Rick’s creamery for another five years.

Decades later, Bruno’s customers are still savoring the memory of those curly fries.

Justin Brierton, cafeteria manager of Epicurean, said, “Food harnesses three of our major senses, taste, smell and vision and as such is able to form a deep imprint on our memories.” He continued, “A certain smell or taste can take us to those exact moments we experienced the food. If a dish looks different from what we have seen in the past, we may treat it as suspect. Food is both personal and communal. Ingesting food is an intimate experience in which we trust and take in each bite into our bodies.”

So, what is it about curly fries? “They have a better contrast and texture compared to regular fries. They are a lot more seasoned also,” said Will Parker ’22.

According to O’Hair, “People I talked to often said they knew of no other place in the City during the 1950s and 1960s where you could get curly fries. Although many felt strongly about this, as a historian I had to temper their memories as a source of information because many were children or teens then, and may not have been in a position to really know such a fact.”

In addition, “I could not find a definitive source for establishing as factual the idea that Bruno’s Creamery on Monterey Boulevard was the first place on the West Coast to serve curly fries, so I could not state that as a historical fact.”

Brierton said, “Curly fries are unique in not only shape, but texture and taste. The shape helps create a unique texture that is both crispy and softer than normal fries. It allows the fries to layer itself and when you take a bite you get multiple layers of both the crispy outside and creamy inside.”

Would Epicurean ever add curly fries to the menu? “We would love to serve curly fries at Riordan, but unfortunately the quantity would affect the quality of the end result,” Brierton said.

Whether or not curly fries made their West Coast debut a few blocks from Riordan, O’Hair said, “In the end I felt that people’s heartfelt stories and memories were more important.”