Last fall, I had a lunch meeting with a good friend and former colleague, Rick Furgerson, at Brio Tuscan Grille at the upscale Plaza Frontenac shopping mall in St. Louis (see map). Rick now co-owns his own custom installation business with another good friend and former colleague, Steve Gollaher. I set up a lunch meeting with both of them, but only Rick could show up as Steve was busy on an install.
Brio Tuscan Grille is part of the Bravo Development group's upscale Italian restaurants located in 17 states across the U.S. There are 31 Brio locations with a 32nd ready to open later this spring. Bravo Development also owns the Bravo Cucina Italiana restaurants of which there are 44 locations. For my entry on the Bravo Cucina Italiana restaurant in suburban Kansas City, click here. Like the Bravo locations, Brio Tuscan Grilles are usually located in or near newer and/or upscale shopping malls in a given market.
It was a very nice late fall day when I met up with Rick at Brio Tuscan Grille in St. Louis. We decided to enjoy the day and we had lunch outside on patio. Brio is a very popular place at lunch time and the inside of the restaurant was nearly full, as was the outside patio. We took a table next to the building and began to catch up on personal stuff before getting down to business.
The lunch menu at Brio Tuscan Grille is filled with soups, salads, sandwiches and some pasta dishes. The dinner menu at Brio is more complex with a number of full Tuscan style entrees consisting of pasta, chicken, seafood, lamb, pork and beef. The wine list is pretty good with some good prices on some of my more favorite wines.
One of Brio's signature dishes for both lunch and dinner is the Chicken Under the Brick - a grilled chicken breast that is flattened by a hot brick and then topped with a marsala wine sauce, and served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. I ordered that up for my selection. Rick has had some health problems over the past few years and his days of eating heavy pasta and cream sauces is long gone. Rick got the roasted chicken salad - a chicken breast roasted in an oak-fired oven, pulled apart and topped on a salad with cherry tomatoes, Gorgonzola and a balsamic dressing.
We enjoyed the late fall afternoon while we waited for our lunch. Our waiter was very thorough and very attentive. He didn't make a nuisance of himself, but he was always on the spot to fill water or tea glasses. He was working hard for his tip.
Our lunches came and I have to say that I was happy with my Chicken Under the Brick. The chicken breast was cooked perfectly, it wasn't dried out and was still juicy and tender. The marsala wine sauce was sort of weak compared to other marsala sauces I've had, but it was still good. It didn't overpower the taste of the chicken breast.
Rick's salad also looked pretty good. The oakwood oven roasted chicken had a distinct and pleasant smell that I could catch from across the table. Rick was happy with his lunch.
We spent, probably, 90 minutes at the table in total, talking about work, talking about products and catching up on each other's lives. Our waiter wasn't in any hurry to turn the table as it was well past 1 p.m. and the lunch rush was over. I paid the bill - a tad under $40 bucks with a healthy tip - long before we got up to leave. And the waiter continued to stop back and fill water glasses for us. I've found that at many places (such as at Bravo in suburban Kansas City), if you pay the bill and stick around, the waiter just quits waiting on you. I ended up putting down a couple more bucks on the table for the waiter at Brio just for being so attentive.
While I'm not big on chains, I have to say that I did like Brio and would go back at any point in time for another meal. It might not be in St. Louis where there are dozens of great Italian restaurants in the area, but it could be at another city when I'm looking for a good meal and don't feel like trying to find a good place where the locals eat.