I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants and stores I visit with family and friends.
City Centre Houston
On the west side of Houston, with Interstate 10 on the northern boundary and located just to the west of the Sam Houston Tollway, is a reinvention of what used to be called Town and Country Mall.
There are still some of the original stores and restaurants and even Randall's grocery store in this location. But the area has taken on a new life and upscale image since the mall was demolished some years ago.
New condominium living spaces now share 37 acres of pedestrian-friendly grounds with many restaurants, businesses, and retail establishments. The luxurious Hotel Sorella accommodates travelers as well as Houstonians who wish to use the various amenities.
Reputedly, some 500 million dollars have been spent in making City Centre an attractive space to live, dine, shop, exercise, and enjoy life. Just walking the grounds with the splashing fountains, bamboo palms waving in the breezes, and attractive buildings and landscaping is a far cry from the old mall, sweet as that was at the time.
Brio Tuscan Grille is a chain restaurant with multiple locations throughout the United States. It is indeed an attractive addition to the mix of other dining places in the City Centre and one which my husband and I have enjoyed on numerous occasions.
To set the mood for this review, here is a video showing photos from Tuscany with beautiful music to accompany it, sung by a tenor.
The salads are all worth a try at this restaurant. Some mixtures are entrée-sized, but even the Bistecca Insalata featured below is a hefty portion all on its own. It consisted of an entire half a head of iceberg lettuce with Gorgonzola, bacon, Roma tomatoes, and a creamy Parmesan dressing.
With a steak knife presented in the middle of the wedge, it is something that my husband and I would both enjoy savoring again in the future. One does not need to order much else as it is quite filling. You could perhaps share an appetizer or a bruschetta sampler as we did on one particular visit.
On another visit, my husband enjoyed his Romano Crusted Chicken Salad. It was served with chopped hard-boiled egg, bacon, tomatoes, green onions, cucumber, and a creamy Parmesan dressing.
I ordered the Grilled Salmon Salad, and it was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Roma tomatoes, asparagus cooked al dente, Feta cheese, and the tiniest shoestring potatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing adorned the fillet of salmon. I would definitely order that salad again!
The Tuscan Harvest Salad was the very first entrée salad that I tried. It is a delightful mixture of mixed greens tossed with grilled chicken, mushrooms, bacon, almonds, Gorgonzola cheese, apples, dried cranberries, crispy lavash (which is an unleavened flatbread), and dressed with Italian dressing.
The interior of Brio's is warm and welcoming, as you can see from the photos shown below. Much thought was given to the rustic design and furnishings. Tuscan colors are generally earth-toned with warm-colored accent pieces. The walls were all textured, and there is much use of tile flooring. Iron accents and porcelain pieces were used to embellish individual spaces.
The artwork framed and displayed on the walls at Brio Tuscan Grille makes one think of Roman times with ancient buildings, columns, city gates, and other sites. Drawings showing faces and curves of the human body are reminiscent of artists such as what Michelangelo and others would have created in their day and time.
One place that we have not yet chosen to dine is on the outside covered patio area or the umbrella tables on the outside of Brio at the front entrance.
The lounge area looks inviting, and we have seen many people enjoying those spaces while sipping on a libation or enjoying a snack or full meal. Overhead fans keep the air circulating, and indoor-outdoor fabric offers the look of sumptuous drapery framing the picturesque street scenes outside at City Centre. Potted palm trees add to the overall ambiance of these outdoor areas at the restaurant.
Below is a video showing more of what Tuscany looks like in photos.
The chandeliers at Brio's are definitely distinctive and give a warm glow to the room.
Swathes of draped cloth from a wrought iron medallion are attached to other ceiling points with the Tuscan-styled chandeliers overhead. It makes it impossible not to enjoy the visual aspect of each room from top to bottom.
Okay, now you readers have an idea of the décor and ambiance at Brio’s, but I am sure you would like to hear more about the food. Am I correct?
We were once treated to a Sunday brunch there by a friend. Our friend had ordered the Frittata Al Forno, and she gave me a taste of it. Wow! It is something that I will definitely order at some time so that I can enjoy an entire meal of it. It consists of eggs, bacon, onions, spinach, artichokes, angel hair pasta, Fontina, and Parmesan cheese cream. Alongside it on the plate was some fresh fruit nestled in greens.
The Eggs Oscar was my husband’s choice of entrée. It had two poached eggs alongside a crab and shrimp cake with potatoes, grilled asparagus, artichokes, spinach, and lemon butter topped off with Hollandaise. It was tasty (he also gave me a sample bite) but a bit rich for me to want an entire serving.
I had the Tuscan Harvest Salad that Sunday, which has already been described.
We shared a carafe of Bellinis and started our Sunday feast by sampling the delicious bread and seed-encrusted flat-breads which are served to every table as a complimentary start to meals.
For those who may be unfamiliar with a Bellini—it is a drink that uses peach nectar combined with sparkling wine—generally a Prosecco. It is yummy! At Brio’s, they serve it with crushed ice, which kept it nicely chilled the entire time we were sipping the drink.
Bruschetta and Flatbreads
These seem to be one of the specialties at Brio's, and they offer various types. They range from some topped with BBQ flavoring to others having seafood or even toppings that would ordinarily top a pizza. All, of course, have combinations of unique ingredients, making them special to this restaurant.
One day my husband and I decided to try their sampling of four house-made bruschettas. Eight pieces—two of each kind—were served at our table on a long plank.
All four were tasty, but our personal favorite was the roasted tomato and ricotta combination. It was delicious!
You can also see a few photos of other foods we have enjoyed at different times.
Calamari is fried to a crisp golden brown color and is still tender and delicious.
Lobster Bisque is on the menu and is a regular offering at Brio's. Other soup offerings vary depending on the day.
Dreaming of Tuscany
By now, readers of this post certainly must know that we enjoy the meals and ambiance at Brio Tuscan Grille in City Centre, Houston. My husband, some time ago, came back from a trip to Tuscany while on business in Italy. He raved about the scenery, food, and friendliness of the people.
City Centre does not have cobblestoned streets and tall cypress trees and rolling vineyard-covered hillsides. Still, it just might substitute for those who cannot visit Tuscany anytime soon.
Below is a video showing the Tuscan region in Italy by Rick Steves.
Tuscan reds and ochre hues
Olive greens and skies of blue
Sunlit valleys full of charm
Secluded homestead and hilltop farm
Over hills skim birds in flight
Aromas whet the appetite
Autumn rustle fills the air
Revealing grace of trees laid bare
Pathways meander through the vale
Inviting travelers its height to scale
Sunset rewards as evening ends
And pilgrims to the night descend
— Collette O'Mahony, The Soul in Words: A collection of Poetry & Verse
© 2020 Peggy Woods