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Tales from Beyond the Food Court


Restaurant Riff: Brio Tuscan Grille

About halfway through a Monday night “training dinner” at Brio Tuscan Grille, between appetizer rounds of bruschetta and Gorgonzola-crusted lamb chops, it hit me:

This is the Bizarro Olive Garden.

Brio, a boutique chain based in Columbus, Ohio, opened last week at the increasingly-unrecognizable Christiana Mall. Brio certainly ups the mall’s class quotient—the restaurant is appointed beautifully in Old World earth tones, bronze highlights, yawning palm trees and sepia artwork. The eyes are immediately drawn to the silky centerpiece that drapes down from the ceiling of the dining room.

The “training dinner” was essentially a dress rehearsal for Brio’s grand opening, so legions of smiling managers and staffers patrolled nearly every corner with a frantic sort of fervor. Brio’s menu, meanwhile, isn’t too foreign (Italio-American standards like chicken Milanese, lobster ravioli and veal Marsala are all present), but the dishes we were presented were all quite delicious. No traces of greasiness or sloppiness one might associate with other Italian chains. 

Here’s something you won’t find at most chains: lamb cooked ultra-rare. These Frenched chops were coated in a salty Gorgonzola crust and stacked over veal jus. Tender, flavorful and practically still baaing–what more could you ask for in lamb chops?

Tomato-crusted mahi mahi (above) and fettuccine Napoli (below) were our entrees for the night. The fish, succulent and fork-tender, had a pleasing crust and was accompanied by blanched veggies. The pasta meanwhile was nicely al dente (it’s made with fresh pasta, not dried, we were told) and tossed with smoked chicken, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta, broccoli florets and chili flake and a light bercy sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

All in all, it was a nice first impression for a place that could be a big hit at the mall. The food, by a large margin, was fresh-tasting and loaded with flavor. Between Brio and the new JB Dawson’s, the Christiana Mall seems out to prove shopping mall food doesn’t end at Sbarro.

Tuesday, November 16: Bethany Blues of Lewes, truly a place that has its priorities straight, is hosting an evening of bourbon and barbecue Tuesday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. The restaurant, already home to such liquor-infused items as Jack Daniels buffalo wings, will have bourbon samples making the rounds, as well as bourbon-inspired dishes to taste. Tickets are limited so call 644-2500 to reserve your spot.

Wednesday, November 17: Guiseppe Furio’s heralded Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano will be the site Wednesday for an all-Abruzzo cooking demonstration, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Dishes from Italy’s mountainous Abruzzo region will take center stage during Furio’s demonstration, which highlights the area’s old-world techniques, and a few choice Italian wines. The five-course dinner costs just $60 per person. Courses include:

Pallote Cacio Evova

Tagliatelle Al Carciofi

Coniglio Alle Erbe

Sogliola Mugniaia

Torta Della Nonna

Call Pomodoro today for details at 574-9800.

Refurbished digs: La Casa Pasta

Just six months removed from a devastating electrical fire that wreaked havoc on most of its interior, the 32-year-old Italian classic La Casa Pasta is finally reborn. And not just reborn, but revamped and revitalized after a beautiful renovation. Giuseppe and Anna Martuscelli’s tribute to coastal Italian cuisine is back and better than ever. Son and partner Gianmarco Martuscelli was kind enough to pass along some photos of the new Casa.

According to Gianmarco, chef Guiseppe is back to work on handmade pastas, only now patrons can take advantage of slimmer and affordable half-portions on dishes like dolce vita, with handmade fettucelle, filet mignon tips, sun-dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and marsala cream sauce. The kitchen has also rediscovered its brick pizza oven, which it will use to make crispy individual-sized pies.

Gianmarco, proprietor of the Chesapeake Inn and Paciugo Gelato, has brought over some of Paciugo’s frosty treats, available on La Casa’s dessert menu and to-go from the brand new Italian market, which also peddles homemade soups and sauces, among other delicacies.

The new interior is a comfy-upscale diversion from the Old Casa, with custom-made wood tables and sections for private dining.

Stay tuned for much more on La Casa Pasta in Delaware Today. In the meantime, call La Casa at 738-9935, and head over to see the new digs for yourself.

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