• Wednesday , 21 February 2018

BRIO Tuscan Grille Brings Fresh Italian Taste to New Jersey

Story, photos by Cassie Hepler

Imagine a chain restaurant grades above an Olive Garden that uses fresh ingredients daily and and quality flavors. Offering the high energy of a chop house paired with the lively atmosphere of an Italian restaurant, meet New Jersey’s BRIO Tuscan Grille. With rotating seasonal dishes on the menu, BRIO in Cherry Hill Town Place in Cherry Hill, N.J. and the Promenade at Sagemore in Marlton, N.J. are inviting guests to tempt their tastebuds and think outside of the Garden mentality.

Whether you’re stopping in for a quick bite, happy hours to die for or toasting a milestone of life and love moments, it’s a casual yet upscale space with smiles on most everyone’s face. Brio Catering also offers quite impressive pricing starting at $18 a head for a 3 course meal. Whether you need a meal for 4 or 50, they’ve got you covered.

When walking into BRIO Tuscan Grille, we were immediately met with warm smiles and anticipation of an amazing Italian meal. The menu features fresh, prepared to order classic dishes from regional Italian recipes and the ambiance mirrors that of a lively family gathering with large table options and leisurely eating pace, much like Italy. The best ingredient however is the wonderful team. The GM would pop by herself every half hour or so and ask us how we were, offer suggestions and tell us how her “family” have all been there for years – a fine feat in the volatile restaurant industry. Just like they nurture their dishes, they nurture their team members.

When the sun finally came out, so did all the outdoor seating and bar was ready for business.

Explore-NJ.com IT technician Eric Smith was our power plus one for the night as they seated us for a moment while our table was getting ready.

Always look up because you never know what you may find like this lovely vaulted ceiling.

After consuming a lot of wine for Memorial Day weekend, we opted for something lighter like this sugary sweet Moscato with ice cold chilled glass.

We split the caesar kale salad and enjoyed the dressing on the side, not bitter at all.

This starter is one of the stars of the show at BRIO Tuscan Grille, shrimp on top of flash fried eggplant, each bite was better than the last. Some make it a dinner dish by placing pasta underneath.

The shining star of the night, the beef carrpaccio also on the happy hour menu, fooled our eyes thinking the plate was pink, here it was covered in thinly shaved angus beef while it’s frozen to get it paper thin. An amazing taste and presentation!

I switched off to the White Oak California chardonnay as the Moscato was getting a bit too sweet, this one is always a nice subtle oak taste.

Always a fan of the open kitchen concept, we caught this chef smiling which seems contagious there.

The kitchen was buzzing on a Friday night and fizzled out closer to 10 p.m.

Our lovely GM suggested 19 Crimes red for our steak dinners with a crime listed inside each cork. It was a solid red and not too shabby for a low price point.

The lobster and shrimp risotto was a seafood lover’s dream dish, with a side of melted butter even better.

We tried out the New York Strip steak, a little too well done for me but our IT angel loved it – and the fettuccine pasta.

My 9 ounce center cut filet (for only about $30) was perfectly done with a little crunch on the outside and pink on the inside paired well with the 19 crimes red. The cauliflower had a nice spice kick and while the crab cake came out subpar compared to this tasty slab of meat.

Not one to usually even post about mashed potatoes, but these suckers were like heavenly piles of butter fluff.

For dessert, we went Italian style with a cappuccino not sweet at all just like it’s supposed to be.

And Italians always say Limoncello makes a great aperitif digestif for your belly after a heavy meal. Strong and tangy, it never disappoints.

The warm chocolate cake at BRIO Italian Grille is 890 calories but who’s counting? It was not too sweet but enough cocoa to please the palate.

Always liking the idea of smaller desserts, they have created the dolchino trio – caramel mascarpone cheesecake, creme brulee and chef’s seasonal dolchino – all heavenly in their own way and soon disappeared.

Will we be back? For sure once across the Ben Franklin bridge. In the meantime, we recommend checking it out even if you just dip your toe in for happy hour.

BRIO (meaning “lively” or “full of life”) is a “polished casual” restaurant serving authentic, northern Italian cuisine. The subtitle, “Tuscan Grille” is descriptive in the menu that features oven-roasted steaks, chops and seafood, similar to what one would find in an authentic ristorante in Tuscany. BRIO’s philosophy is “to eat well, is to live well;” which is why it only uses the finest and freshest ingredients. BRIO brings the pleasure of the Tuscan country villa to the American city. BRIO is part of Columbus-based BRAVO|BRIO Restaurant Group (BBRG). Founded in 1992, BBRG currently operates more than 100 restaurants including BRAVO! Cucina Italiana, BRIO Tuscan Grille and Bon Vie Bistro. Please visit the website for BRIO locations at www.brioitalian.com and follow the restaurant on Twitter (@brioitalian) and Facebook (facebook.com/brioitalian)

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