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Review: Brio Tuscan Grille

Brio is no more Tuscany than Southlake Town Center is Manhattan, but it is at least superior to standard suburban sprawl.
photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

If you haven’t been out to Southlake Town Square lately, the place is nuts—as in prosperous, mushrooming, ballooning, et cetera—and getting nuttier. An urban retail center like West Village or Shops at Legacy in Plano, Southlake’s square recently doubled its space to more than 1 million square feet, adding a Hilton hotel, Cheesecake Factory, Taco Diner, Snuffer’s—and Brio Tuscan Grille.

Brio is like a microcosm of the center itself. Part of an Ohio-based chain, it’s a huge operation that strives in its design to evoke a Tuscan villa, just as the Square mimics a city. Brio is no more Tuscany than this suburban-urban village is Manhattan, but it is at least superior to standard suburban sprawl.

Wait times at Brio run 90 minutes on weekends, a situation not helped by an arcane reservation system—something about limiting the number of reservations to accommodate walk-ins—with the result being, you always wait. Not everyone views this as a problem. An hour of people-watching with cocktail in hand is just as entertaining as (and cheaper than) seeing a movie.

Brio definitely has the environment aspect down, with arched doorways, antiqued plaster walls, marble columns, and vintage-looking rugs. The restaurant boasts 7,700 square feet, five dining areas, seating for 300, and two bars, one of which overlooks a fountain in a pleasant courtyard that absolutely no one would mistake for Venice’s Piazza San Marco.

The menu crosses two popular themes—Italian-plus-steakhouse. Food and service mildly disappointed, though not enough to dull the fizz of the Brio Flirtini (topped with prosecco and a cherry). With much of the staff of 200 seemingly plucked from Tarrant County Junior College (go, TCJC!), you can’t expect four-star treatment. The best you can do is appreciate the servers’ mercurial enthusiasm and hope your entrée comes sooner, not later.

Like the décor, the food looked good. But flavors were watered-down, as if everything had been blanched. Ribeye steak, advertised as Prime, seemed dull. Grilled chicken—having undergone a fancy technique called “under the brick” that the server could not describe—barely registered. “Straw and hay,” pasta with prosciutto and peas in Parmesan cheese, did make an impression. Namely: “Yikes, there’s a ton of oil in this thing.”

Pizza wasn’t bad, especially the white pizza with asparagus, garlic, roasted red onion, and vivid red cherry tomato halves, and a golden, moderately chewy crust. Every table ordered bruschetta, topped with chopped shrimp and mozzarella and served on an elevated plate. Wine was another bright note, with many bottles priced below $40 and more than 30 wines by the glass. It may not be Florence. It’s not even Little Italy. But it is something.

Get contact information for Brio Tuscan Grille.

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