Top 10 Appetizers at Brio's Tuscan Grille
You probably just call it "BRIO'S", but it's officially the Tuscan Grille near the Plaza Frontenac
The word can be tracked from the word 'briu' of the region of Provence in southeastern France, to the word "brio" in Toscana in central Italy, and then straight to "BRIO", the Tuscan Grille in Frontenac at 1601 South Lindbergh Boulevard. In all instances 'brio' means the same thing…liveliness and vigor.
That describes the atmosphere of BRIO when I went there on Saturday afternoon to find out their Top 10 appetizers for 2010. I went in about 1:30, thinking that I'd beat the lunch rush. The first indication that I was mistaken was when I couldn't find a parking space on the vast lot. The second was when I went inside and the place was…well… over-flowing with liveliness and vigor. That includes the staff. The servers were hustling out orders. The chefs were in constant motion behind the grille. The hostesses (there were two of them, at least) were greeting incoming customers, thanking out-going customers, and taking phone reservations for impending customers. Still, I was greeted expeditiously by hostesses Elly Schaaf and Alex Island. At first I thought, "Hawksley, you are still a magnet for women," but then I saw that they did that for everybody.
Okay, then, I asked, what are the 10 best appetizers at BRIO? Elly immediately grabbed a menu and started checking some off. "Carpaccio is my favorite," she said. "It is legendary." On the menu it is called 'Beef Carpaccio'. It consists of raw beef that is sliced thinly, moistened with olive oil and lemon juice and then served with field greens, capers, mustard aioli and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
It is nearly impossible describe that dish without kissing your bunched-up index finger, middle finger and thumb as the exclamation point.
The other hostess, Alex Island, (I love that name. She should be on "Idol"), said, "My favorite is the Ravioli Caprese." She looked at my menu and pointed, "It's right…here." Romano encrusted ravioli, topped with tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella, and drizzled with pesto.
In my head I can almost hear Caruso crooning "Funiculi, funicula"
At this point server Kyle Whitaker weighs in with his favorite. "I serve a lot of Bruschetta Quatro. It's also my personal favorite." On the menu it's Brick's Bruschetta Quatro and it's a sampler of four Bruschetta's. "This one's great for sharing," Kyle says.
Here are seven more appetizers to round out our Top Ten. (Just a note: You can't go wrong with 11 through 15, either)
- Roasted Garlic Spinach-Artichoke Dip
- BRIO Shrimp and Crab Cakes
- Spicy Shrimp & Eggplant
- Lobster Bisque
- Margherita Flatbread
- Tuscan Harvest Salad
- Calamari Fritto Misto
A man in a crisp white shirt and colorful tie approaches. This is an authority figure, and I half-expect to be yelled at, grabbed by the collar and the belt and tossed off the premises. It's my leftover guilt from being educated by the good School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Of course, and instead, I'm greeted warmly by the BRIO general manager, Shy Patel, who has been running the place for six years. I tell him about PATCH, and he tells me he's heard of us. "Let me show you something," Shy says. We step through a side door to the new, heated (and surprisingly cozy) outdoor patio. "We are about to put in a fire place where our patrons can relax and enjoy a cocktail."
So what's your best appetizer, Shy?
"The Carpaccio. It's legendary."
So I've heard.
"The restaurateurs from The Hill come here just for the Carpaccio, Shy says proudly." They love it."
If that's not an endorsement, you must be from out of town.