The experience

Today is really Lala’s birthday.  Mina was very excited to go to Lala’s house and drop off her gifts.  After that, we planned to go out to eat.  We decided to go to Brio’s as I was craving an adult beverage (I don’t have many days when I am not on call).  I called to see if they had call ahead seating.  The hostess told me they didn’t, but they did take reservations.  Even better!  I made reservations and we headed over to Lala’s house.  After giving my mom a plant from each of us, we packed up and headed to Allen.

Brio Tuscan Grille

When we arrived, we got a great parking spot and were seated right away, even though we were a good 15 minutes late for our reservation time.  We were seated at a nice large booth and the kids got busy on their coloring while the rest of us took a look at the menu.  Before we left, I told my mom that they had pizza (assuming that an Italian restaurant would).  They had flatbreads with pizza toppings, but the only traditional style pizza was found on the kids menu.  More than just the kids would be ordering from the kids menu tonight!

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We ordered our drinks and some calamari, then after further review, we decided to order some bruschetta.  Yup, it’d be another night when Team Phipps would order way too much food.  When she came to get the rest of our dinner order, she asked if I wanted a salad.  Why not?  Add a salad on there and some gnocchi for Benji.

The calamari and bruschetta came out together and we munched on that.  Benji was more interested in the 4×4 slab of butter that came with the regular bread. 

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Next out came our salads.  This was half a head of lettuce with dressing, tomatoes, and bleu cheese (wedge salads, HUGE wedge salads).  Benji was quick to warn Papa “Dane-jer!”  pointing at the knife stuck into the middle of our salads.  Too bad, Benji doesn’t heed his own warnings. 

Wedge Salad

I gave Benji a taste of the tomatoes and he seemed to like it just fine.  We realized that he liked the dressing more than anything else, but he did eat both the lettuce and tomatoes from our salad, which is a new development!  Mina also ate some salad, but she chose to dip her lettuce in her marinara sauce. As Benji might say, “ew, gusting!”

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The rest of our dinner came out and what I now think will be a usual occurence when we eat Italian occurred.  Mina put her pasta fingers on.  This time, though, Benji followed suit.  His new thing is to do everything that Mina does.  He doesn’t quite have the fine motor skills and blamed it on the pasta, “broken.” He finally got the hang of it and decided it would be a good idea if Mommy and Papa also had a “turn.”  We’re suckers, so we did it, too.  Even Papa with his man hands.

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Mina decided that she wanted to give Papa a massage and once she finished with his massage, it was the birthday girl’s turn.  She and Benji also sang “Happy Birthday” to Lala at least three times, not including the time we all sang it at dessert. 

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Speaking of dessert, they brought out a bunch of little cups with stuff in ‘em.  Those were the desserts.  Very intriguing.  Mina had already decided that she would be having one of the frozen strawberry lemonades. 

We got our dessert and before you could blink an eye, Benji stole the raspberry off Lala’s cheesecake, I assume he thought it was a strawberry.  I split my strawberry among Benji and Mina.  We sang “Happy Birthday” one more time and then dug into dessert.  I was surprised that Benji did not devour his gelato.  I tried it and it was excellent.  He preferred Mina’s frozen drink, which she was kind enough to share.  Mina did not want to let Benji hold it (for good reason).  Benji scowled at her and said, “Nina, [yes, he calls her Nina] share!” Very clearly.  This is what ensued:

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After that, we split up the drinks into a cup for Benji, but he had difficulty with the straw and ended up just getting more angry and crying.  When we got him to calm down, all he wanted was for me to make a pasta finger.  So I did and he calmed down. 

Mina was busy trying to repour Benji’s share back into her cup.  Ended up being a bad idea because she couldn’t get the lid on and instead of accepting help from Lala to put the lid on, she knocked over her drink spilling most of it. Tsk Tsk. 

We decided we better just leave before we could make a bigger mess.  Sheesh. 

The food

Uh, Tuscan Italian, I suppose. Has your standard fare Italian dishes with quite a few meaty dishes and a few flatbread choices also.

CalamariRoasted Red Pepper BruchettaFor starters, we ordered Calamari and Bruschetta with Roasted Red Pepper and Mozzarella.  The calamari was pretty good.  The calamari wasn’t too chewy and the breading was nice and light.  Everyone at the table seemed to like it pretty well.  Ogre thought it reminded him of the calamari at Nicola’s.  Well, I wouldn’t go that far!  The Bruschetta was also good.  I don’t like it when the bread is too crunchy and this wasn’t.  It was perfectly toasted so you could still bite into it, but it wasn’t too soft, just crisp.  The roasted red peppers were nice and meaty.  My only complaint, keeping the fact that I’m a balsamic vinegar FREAK, is that there could’ve (and should’ve) been more balsamic vinegar.  A drizzle doesn’t cut it!

Wedge SaladNext out came the Wedge salads.  These were of huge proportions.  An entire half a head of lettuce!  It wasn’t doused in dressing and that was just fine, there was definitely enough to coat things.  The dressing was more like a creamy dressing without a lot of tang to it.  It came with tomatoes and bacon atop it (no red onions).  Overall, a decent wedge, but not my favorite.

Gorgonzola Crusted Lamb ChopsI ordered the Gorgonzola Lamb Chops.  I ordered mine medium rare, but these were more like medium.  They were still tender and good flavor, but I didn’t think the Gorgonzola added anything to the dish.  I wouldn’t have missed it if it weren’t there.  Overall, an “eh” kind of lamb dish. 

Pasta alla Vodka SauceOgre ordered the Pasta with Vodka sauce.  He liked it (as did the kids).  Definitely not one of the best vodka sauces we’ve ever had, but it was good. He enjoyed the ricotta cheese filing but I am not a big fan of that type of cheese.  Too grainy for my taste.  Benji thought it was spicy, but it wasn’t.

GnocchiPenne PastaThe kids had penne pasta with pomodoro sauce -Mina did not like this sauce!!  I don’t know why, she said it was “too strong.”  I thought it tasted great.  Ogre thought she didn’t like it because it was too tomato-y.  I don’t know what it was about the sauce she didn’t like, maybe it was too acidic?  I could see that.  Benji’s gnocchi was above average.  A good texture and they put his sauce on the side, too.  Together with the pomodoro sauce was quite tasty.  I liked it!

PizzaMy mom ordered a pizza with sausage, pepperoni, spinach and mushrooms.  It was quite a large size for a kids pizza.  She said she liked it, but liked it better when she added some extra pomodoro sauce to it!

Caramel Creme BruleeCreme BruleeCheesecakeGelato SundaeThe desserts came in little cups, which I still am not a big fan of.  I ordered the vanilla creme brulee.  There was something about it I didn’t like.  The custard was very “grainy,” not at all smooth.  Ogre ordered the caramel creme brulee.  He thought it was pretty good, and I did think his was better than mine.  Lala ordered the cheesecake and I forgot to ask her what she thought of it, but I do know that Benji spit it out when he tried it!  And last, but not least, was Benji’s vanilla gelato.  I tried it and it was excellent.  Very vanilla bean-y and nice and smooth.  I think I ate more of it then he did!

They have a HUGE kids menu!  It rivals the regular menu!  And they even have selections for “small adults,” which include some of the entrees (like salmon) to choose from.  I was very impressed by their kids menu.

 

The service

The service was average to above average.  The star quality wore off towards the end as she disappeared for quite some time before we could order dessert.  Overall, though, she kept the table nice and tidy, gave us extra napkins, and kept drinks refilled.  The food came out at a very appropriate tempo.

 

The kids

Well, the message Mina decoded in her activity booklet was “Brio loves kids”  Okay, okay!  We get it, you’re kid friendly!  No really, I do think this is a very kid friendly restaurant.  Great kids menu, they have crayons for the kids, the restaurant is loud to drown out your kids fighting over strawberry lemonade…

For a nicer Italian dinner out with the family, I think it’s a great choice.  A little pricey, but above average food and excellent kid friendliness!!

 

 The total:  139.25 (2 glasses of wine, 1 bellini, 3 adults, lots of dessert!)

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