n Italy, when you want some-
thing to be lively or vivacious
— from music to entertaining
— you add the words con brio
to the end of a sentence. It's as much
an attitude as a descriptor. English
idioms could loosely be "with piz-
zazz" or "punch."
That ending is a perfect beginning
for a lively meal at the new Brio
Tuscan Grille in the south side of the
Somerset Collection in Troy.
Though it's not all "Tuscan" fare
as the name implies — some choices
are from other parts of Italy and
some, like the wedge of iceberg let-
tuce, don't seem Italian at all — nit-
picking aside, Brio, simply put, is
fresh and delicious.
I was prepared not to
like Brio. It's just another
big chain (sister restaurant
concept to Bravo, Lindy's
and Bistro Bon Vie) pop-
ping up around the country.
Is this even possible from a
chain? Yep. Brio has man-
aged to perfect their genre,
much in the way other upscale chains
have conquered their niches.
Brio's look is decidedly upscale
and Italianesque — pumpkin-colored
stucco walls, sepia etchings, low
lighting, lots of dark wood and mar-
ble and a huge oak-burning oven in
the center of the room. Somehow it
doesn't seem gimmicky, however.
Diners sit down to crispy triangles of
herbed flatbreads and warm sour-
dough loaves. The menu offers a
broad selection, sometimes exagger-
ated portions, quality ingredients (the
steaks are top-notch), homemade fla-
vor (the mashed potatoes are creamy,
yet lumpy) and a respectable wine
list. The wait staff is especially polite
and attentive — these restaurateurs
respect their customers.
During my first visit, each in our
group of seven managed to order
something different. On my second
dining out, my different group of six
ordered many of the same items as
the first group — and all were consis-
tent. We started out with the margari-
ta flatbread — a super-thin sauceless
pizza topped with mozzarella, fresh
tomatoes and shreds of fresh basil.
The appetizer mushroom ravioli al
forno, also quite good, is entree sized.
Wood-grilled salmon, with its wild
topping of shoestring fried potatoes,
was exactly the same both nights —
eye-pleasing, hot and tasty.
The steaks were prepared
exactly as ordered and served
with those great, lumpy
mashed potatoes or crispy
herb-roasted potatoes. The
whole oak-roasted chicken,
with golden crispy skin and
fresh herbs, easily feeds two
or three. Lamb chops, a full-
rack, were impeccably medi-
um-rare and pastas are abundantly
presented with light and savory
sauces. Each entree comes with your
choice of three salads.
For dessert, we ordered a trio of
creme brulee, warm chocolate torte
with vanilla ice cream and a creamy
cheesecake (not New York style),
also slightly bruleed and drizzled
with raspberry sauce. Brought to the
table stacked three high on a tiered
plate-rack, the ending summed up
the beginning — fun, lively, con brio.
Brio lives up to its slogan, "to live
well is to eat well." The prices are
fair, the place is loud and fun and the
food is good. ❑
Brio Tuscan Grille
Somerset Collection, Troy
Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-
Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
JNPLATINUM • NOVEMBER 2005