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The Anaheim White House Restaurant

Feeding one and all for 28 years

Chef Bruno Serato with plate

Anaheim White House Owner/Chef Bruno Serato

If you live in or near Anaheim, you know about Anaheim White House Restaurant. It’s the turn of the century mansion—once a private home—that has housed the esteemed fine Italian steakhouse owned and operated by Chef/Proprietor Bruno Serato for the past 28 years.

Although it’s been refurbished more than once, the house still carries with it the original grandeur of a storied past—once owned by a kind-hearted doctor, remembered for “never refusing to help anyone.” In 1981, the property was slated to become a condominium complex, but was narrowly saved at the last minute and converted to a restaurant. The real turning point came in 1987, when young Italian immigrant Bruno Serato took ownership—and never looked back.

If you live in or near Anaheim, you know about Anaheim White House Restaurant. It’s the turn of the century mansion—once a private home—that has housed the esteemed fine Italian steakhouse owned and operated by Chef/Proprietor Bruno Serato for the past 28 years.

Born in France but raised in Verona, Italy—the city of love, he says—Serato began working in kitchens at age 14. He learned the ins and outs of restaurant work alongside his mother, Caterina, who ran a trattoria for decades. In 1980, at age 25, Serato came to the United States to visit his sister in California. He liked it so much that he decided to stay, and found restaurant work immediately. “I like the weather here,” he says. “And the kindness of the people.”

With only $200 in his pocket, he began working as a dishwasher in restaurants around town. “I figured out fast that Anaheim needed a good restaurant.” Over time, he began to explore the idea of opening his own restaurant. In 1987, he took ownership of Anaheim White House, creating an upscale Northern Italian menu to honor his roots and offer something special to the local palate.

Plated meat with purple cauliflower

One of the most notable things about Anaheim White House is its impressively untouched historical look. Although it’s been refurbished, it appears much the way it did in the early 1900s. Serato added his own touches with Italian frescos which he personally commissioned from an Italian artist. Each piece is done in the style of a classic fresco, replicating masterpieces from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

“These are things you don’t see everyday in America,” Serato says.

Still, each room honors his adopted country in its name. Guests may dine in the Lincoln room, the Jefferson room, the Carter room, or others—each one seating between 15 and 60, unique and romantic in its own way. The main dining room, the Ronald Reagan room, is set in the house’s former living room. For large events, the entire restaurant is available for full rentals, accommodating between 600 and 700 people. For slightly smaller to-dos, the West Wing ballroom offers 1,800 square feet of private banquet or reception space for up to 200, as well as its own outdoor garden and bar service.

“It’s a special thing to be able to dine in your own private room,” Serato says. “Each room is unique, and each of the rooms has its own beauty. I love all of them.” If he had to choose a favorite, though, he might choose the Bobby Ryan room—so named for professional hockey player and Serato’s good friend, now a member of the Ottawa Senators.

Main dining room at Anaheim White House

In such an artistic, historical space, Serato is inspired to cook the cuisine of his Italian heritage—elegant and approachable Northern Italian cuisine. “We call ourselves an Italian steak house, but have a little bit of everything,” Serato explains, discussing the variety of pasta, seafood, and steak on the menu. Signature items include filet mignon, wagyu steak, short ribs, osso bucco, and fish like salmon, seared tuna, and calamari. “Our Salmon Chocolat with white chocolate mashed potatoes is especially popular,” he says. Indeed, Anaheim White House is known around the country for those mashed potatoes; on a plate with steamed Atlantic salmon, Japanese ginger, and citrus beurre blanc, they are pure magic.

Anaheim White House is often recognized locally for its quality cuisine and beautiful setting, but Serato’s fame has spread around the world due to his philanthropic spirit. In 2005, Serato’s mother, Caterina, visited him in Orange County. They stopped by the local Boys & Girls Club of Anaheim, and noticed a young boy eating potato chips for dinner because he was unable to afford anything better. Caterina insisted that her son make pasta for that child—which he did. “We started feeding young kids that very day,” Serato says, “and we haven’t stopped since.”

PInk and yellow pasta dish
Serato and his mother quickly realized that there were many more hungry children in Orange County, and he began cooking hot, nutritious spaghetti dinners for more than 70 children every weeknight. Eventually he founded the program, Feeding the Kids in America, which now prepares meals in the restaurant and delivers them to Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, churches, and schools around the area.

Things only grew from there. Serato realized that many of these hungry families didn’t even have stable housing, often living in motel rooms. He was compelled to begin a second program, helping families gain the resources to move into more stable housing. These two charities are part of Caterina’s Club, which now serves more than 1,400 children a day in 10 cities and 20 different locations. “To date, we’ve served more than one million kids,” Serato says, whose goal is to eradicate child hunger the world over—starting in his own backyard. Over time, Serato has been recognized for his work in major publications like People magazine, and on news channels like NBC and ABC. He’s been awarded the title of CNN Hero—even knighted by the President of Italy. And he has no plans of slowing down at the restaurant or with his charitable involvement.

In many ways, Serato and his life’s work honor his own history, giving young children opportunities to grow with nourishment and care. He carries on the legacy of Anaheim White House’s early owners. He upholds the kindness of his stalwart mother. He paves a better future for children everywhere. And when asked if he has children of his own, Serato smiles and says, “Why yes, I’ve got 1,400 of them.”

By Monica Parpal Stockbridge | Senior Editor