Tag Archives: Italian Restaurant

Brio Tuscan Grill – The Staff Bowls Us Over

By Lakshmi:

Tonight, to celebrate a mini personal milestone, we decided to try a new “chain” restaurant that has opened in the Princeton area – Brio Tuscan Grille.  We knew nothing about the place, beyond the fact that a few friends had some lovely Sangria here.

After a short wait, we were shown to our tables.  The place was spacious, the decor a bit old world classic, filled with an eclectic combination of people enjoying a leisurely pre-Thanksgiving evening.

The menus at Brio are exhaustive and feature the usual list of pastas, salads, meats and desserts.  The waitress was quick to point out that we could edit most items on the menu to suit our vegetarian taste.  She said everything at Brio was very fresh, a term which is loosely used at many a chain with very few living up to that promise.

We commenced our meal with a Tomato Mozzarella Caprese  with the freshness of the mozzarella and tomatoes oozing through every biteful.  This was followed by a Field Green Salad (with my greens aversive daughter actually eating the leafy dish), a Pasta Alla Vodka (divine according to the younger one), a Pasta Pesto (the lightest pesto pasta we’ve had) and a Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta (the smoked peppers playing in perfect harmony with the fresh mozzarella).

We had a little hiccup in our meal’s arrival – with a manager actually coming to apologize for the mix up and delay.  Our waitress followed up multiple times to check in to see if we needed anything else.

We had eaten more than we should have and yet when the waitress presented the dessert choices, we could not refuse a cheesecake/greek yogurt concoction and a chocolate cake oozing with molten chocolate and topped with vanilla ice cream and berries.  To us, the dessert felt like the final flourish to a lovely meal, but the best was apparently yet to come.

When we were presented with our check, I noticed a $50.00 credit.  The waitress proceeded to tell us that the Manager wanted to compensate us for the delay in our meal’s arrival.  As I walked over to thank the Manager, he apologized once more, handing me a coupon for a free entree along with his business card.

He thanked us for coming, requested us to come back and the waitress checked in again to make sure we had a lovely time as well.

We’re not a huge fan of chains, but when a chain does treat you like a special guest and wants your business, we want to return for more.

Thanks to Alex Cooper and his team, we will be back for more!

To learn more about Brio Tuscan Grill, please visit their website at


A “Molto Bene” Off The Beaten Track Italian Meal

By Lakshmi:

Last night, a dear friend made reservations for us to dine at Molto Bene, a small jewel box like Italian restaurant located in the heart of historic Cranbury in New Jersey.  Named for the Italian term “very good”, this tiny restaurant packs in a bar, a mercato (market) and a dining area in its compact space, which is always brimming with diners.

As we noticed the diners around us, it was clear that this place was different from many an Italian restaurant.  The plates coming on to the tables were diminutive with beautifully presented assortments of food.

Our native Italian friend decided that trying a series of small platters was the way to experience the full array of tastes available at our disposal.  The first bite of the Palline di Palermo (Chickpea Fritters) served with a lemon alioli yogurt sauce had our taste buds singing.  Reminiscent of the falafel (for its ingredients) and an Indian cutlet (for its texture), these crisp on the outside, smooth on the inside concoctions were awesome.  The Polenta Fritta (Polenta Fries) that followed were a simple rendition of polenta that paired beautifully with the mozzarella cream rouille.  Our vegetarian version of the Ricotta al Forno (Baked Ricotta) with homemade fig marmalade and flatbread blended the salty and sweet into a perfect mix of flavors.

From an impressive start of appetizers, none of which we had savored before, we moved on to their CICCHETTI chi-KE-tee (Small plates) dishes.  We started with a tomato bruschetta and followed it with a Ricotta Gnocchi Fatta in Casa (perfect pieces of gnocci in a very simple tomato sauce).

For those wondering if we were satiated at this point, the answer is…life is too short to not indulge in dessert.  So, out came the traditional Tiramisu, a warm banana bread pudding, crisp friend Zeppoles (Italian mini donuts) with chocolate sauce and some homemade cookies to compensate for our missing macaroni entrée.

A final shot of espresso capped a “molto bene” evening spent with friends discovering a new world of Italian cuisine.

If you’d like to learn more about Molto Bene or explore their off the beaten track menu for inspiration, click here: