Executive Chef Erind Halilaj

“A meal is not just about the food, but about the whole experience.”


The past year I have been trying to shift not just my shopping expenses, but also my food expenses to supporting local businesses. Il Brutto has been on my list for months to try and I finally visited this East Side gem for date night. Y’all. We had the BEST time! With each new dish we learned so much about Italian cuisine, I thought I had teleported to Italy for a night. Executive Chef Erind Halilaj will take your palette on a savory journey with unexpected combinations, leaving you excited to come back and taste more of his creations. Nestled between some of my favorite late night spots Whisler’s and Hotel Vegas, your night is just beginning at Il Brutto ;) learn about Chef Erind and his adventure to Austin below. It will only make you want to support this Italian master even more.

Born in Albania and raised in Italy, Halilaj pursued a culinary career after receiving a degree in economics and tourism services management. In Milan, he held prominent positions at various 5-star luxury hotels, including chef de partie at Hotel Principe di Savoia, sous chef at AC Hotel Marriott Milano, and chef tournant at Excelsior Hotel Gallia. Halilaj worked at several other hotels and restaurants in Italy, including as executive chef of private club Canottieri Restaurant, before an opportunity with JW Marriott brought him to Florida in 2014.

After making the move to New York City that same year, Halilaj was named executive chef of Obicà Mozzarella Bar, then promoted to its corporate chef within his first year. There, he was charged with concepting menus, overseeing multiple kitchens, developing training programs, and opening Obicà locations worldwide. He joined New Waterloo as Executive Chef of Il Brutto and its counterpart, a 1,600-sq-ft sandwich shop, in spring 2017.

“Italian cuisine is rooted in simplicity: straightforward ingredients of the highest quality used in precise ways,” says New Waterloo Partner Delfo Trombetta. “Having grown up in Italy, Erind has a deep-rooted passion for the ingredients and techniques at the core of all Italian cuisine. We are lucky to have him join the Il Brutto team.”


Located in East Austin, Il Brutto offers lunch, brunch and dinner in a 5,000-square-foot restaurant that features a large, open kitchen, a separate bar and lounge, a private dining room, and shaded patio seating surrounding a live oak tree. Helmed by Halilaj, Il Brutto offers a menu of simple, well-executed Italian classics, including fresh antipasti, daily housemade pastas, and pizzas baked in the restaurant’s Neapolitan wood-burning oven. Along with arguably the best gelato in town!


“There’s always a story behind an Italian dish,” says Halilaj.

“A meal is not just about the food, but about the whole experience.”

I couldn’t agree more.