Review: If you have read any of my past review, you know I am no fan of American Italian restaurants. Their cuisine is usually based on Italian-American cuisine, not actual Italian cuisine. (There is a world of difference between the two.) They also are usually of nominal quality (compare to 95% of Chinese restaurants you have frequented in your life). And the situation is usually worse when the restaurant is a chain. This is why it's always surprising when you find an Italian restaurant that works, even if not fully.
After a divorce mediation that went a big nowhere, a few of us jaunted to Brio to give it a try. The outdoor patio was a perfect spot to enjoy a couple appetizers.
First was the fried calamari frito misto. A true frito misto usually includes a number of different types of seafood, as well as other fried items (e.g., fried lemon slices). This was more limited, with fried calamari and peperoncini. There were two sauces: a beautiful aioli and an obligatory tomato sauce. (Why in the world anyone eats tomato sauce with calamari is beyond me.) The bater was light. The calamari were soft and flavorful. The aioli was garlicky, lemony, and mayonnaisey: i.e., everything it should be.
Second, we tried the beef carpaccio with mustard aioli and capers. Carpaccio is all about the beef. There is no possible way one could be good without good quality beef. This beef was good. I mean, it's not like eating a carpaccio of chianina in Tuscany, but it was tasty and wonderfully light. The aioli was pungent and mustardy. There were some greens on top dressed with olive oil, which made little sense to me. carpaccio is decidedly light by nature. It doesn't need greens to make it lighter yet. Good beef, good aioli: it's all you need, and Brio had that.
Next up was the wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and bacon. This was a very un-Italian dish, and it shouldn't be on the menu. Wedge salads have a fairly low ceiling (in other words, they can only be so good), and this was no different. It was okay, just like every other wedge salad. I must say, however, you ever serve anything like this in Italy and call it a salad, Marlon Brando will come back from the dead and cap you while you're getting massage.
Finally, we sampled the lobster bisque. There is this fantastically funny scene in "Seinfeld" in which Elaine is asked about her date with a new man-crush. She indicated they got frisky, and that the lobster bisque was the best part of the date. (It's way funnier when you watch it, trust me.) Well, the lobster bisque was not the best part of anything here. Too viscous. Too salty. Not enough lobster flavor.
So, on the scorecard Brio was two for four. Honestly, not bad for an American Italian restaurant. The two good dishes were quite good.
Rating: 6.5/10 (5/10 is average).