Brio Tuscan Grille is the latest national chain restaurant to open at Willowbrook Mall, a shopping complex already saturated with restaurants in Wayne, NJ.
With its Tuscan-like soothing tan, cream and gold color palette, Brio has a more upscale feel and its food is of better quality than other Italian chain restaurants in the area. The open kitchen concept is a good one as it provides an interesting eating environment with a large team of cooks and chefs busily preparing dishes.
Upon arriving, our pleasant server brought warm bread, butter and flatbread to the table – nice touch. To say the menu is extensive would be a complete understatement. The menu is comprised of Primi, Bruschetta, Insalata, Pasta, Griglia, Specialita and Bistecca.
Primi range from Calamari Fritto Misto ($10.95), a large portion of fried calamari, Lobster Bisque ($5.95), a soup with good flavor but a bit thin on texture and Roasted Garlic, Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($10.95), the popular dish served with Parmesan crisps.
There are also several bruschetta and flatbread starters to select from. To get a good sampling of the various bruschetta, my party opted for Brio’s Bruschetta Quattro ($14.75), a selection of Brio’s four popular bruschetta – Roasted Red Pepper, Antipasti, Sliced Steak and a daily version cleverly-served on a wooden plank. The sliced steak offering is topped with sharp Gorgonzola cheese and peppery arugula – our favorite. The antipasti bruschetta is topped with fresh Mozzarella and thinly julienned pepperoni. The roasted pepper version was our least favorite with an overly sweet taste. We did not sample the flatbreads, but there is a BBQ Chicken Flatbread with smoked Gouda cheese that sounds interesting.
The dinner menu gives the extensive menu at a popular cheesecake restaurant a run for its money in terms of size. We ordered the Sausage Peperonata Pomodoro ($12.95) and the Campanelle Carbonara ($17.65) pastas. The sausage pasta features spaghetti tossed with fennel sausage, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and Parmesan. The portion is considerable and the sausage has nice flavor but the sauce is a bit off with an after-taste I can only describe as “metallic”. The Carbonara is served with grilled chicken, crisp bacon, Parmesan cheese and spinach. The spinach was described as being ‘sautéed’ but on my dish, it was raw which I actually enjoyed in contrast to the creamy sauce.
Desserts are presented table-side by the wait staff and will tempt even diners who over-indulged on the starters and entrées. Desserts are offered as Chef’s Favorites, full-size portions, and Dolchinos, petite versions of the Chef’s Favorites. Dolchinos can be ordered in one flavor ($2.99) or as a sampler of five flavors ($11.95). Do not miss the Milk Chocolate Caramel Cake, a rich chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache, caramel and chocolate frosting – absolutely decadent. Other flavors are Tiramisu and cheesecake.
The wine list features affordable options, over 30 wines by the glass and wines from all over the world. The bar area is attractive and outdoor tables and over-stuffed chairs will be popular in warm months.
“Escape to Tuscany” is Brio’s motto. I am not convinced the menu is entirely “Tuscan”, but the food’s quality, the service and the décor are a significant improvement over what Willowbrook Mall shoppers are accustomed to. Stop in for a glass of wine and appetizers, coffee and Dolchinos or a complete meal after well-deserved retail therapy.
1400 Willowbrook Mall
Wayne, NJ 07470
Monday – Thursday: 11:30AM – 10PM
Friday – Sunday: 11AM – 11PM
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.