Monday, May 22, 2006


My mom's been out of town for almost two weeks and we wanted to welcome her home with a dinner out. Really, we wanted and did start at Jeff Ruby's Tropicana. Though it's received mixed reviews locally, it's somewhat of a guilty pleasure that I liken to my ongoing obsession for MTV's Real World series. "Excessive" is the adjective that comes to mind when I think of this and almost any other Ruby restaurant, but like Las Vegas, they're good in small doses. I love Tropicana's decadent manchego cheese ravioli, adore the green apple martinis, and am afraid to admit that I like to steal glances at the shirtless guy who works in the women's bathroom (don't tell Peter). But tonight the place was dead as a doornail, so after a single drink each we elected instead to go to a few doors down to Brio Tuscan Grille.

Yes, it's a chain, and in my oh-so-snotty way I typically avoid that restaurant genre, but Brio is one of the few exceptions I'll occasionally make. After a week and a half of rain, the nice weather beckoned us to Brio's lovely patio that sits at the heart of Newport on the Levee, in clear view of the fountain and valet parking stand. With the exception of traveling to a client meeting, I hadn't been outside all day, so the fresh air and sunshine were a welcomed change. Though it was right in the middle of the busy dinner service, the fact that it was a Monday meant that we got right in with no wait at all.

We began with the Brio Bruschetta appetizer for the table to start. We were deep in conversation so the appetizers all but vanished before our eyes, but not before Peter had time to remark about how much he really loves grilled bread. He was right. The grilled bread doused in flavorful olive oil was a perfect base for the grilled shrimp and roasted red peppers topped with melted mozzarella cheese.

Peter ordered the Bistecca salad as a next course, and our waiter generously offered to split this between the two of us so we could each taste. While I'd assumed that "bistecca" translated to something involving beef, I was instead surprised to find that this was more of the traditional iceberg lettuce wedge salad, complete with bleu cheese crumbles and dressing, bacon pieces, and chopped tomatoes.

For dinner I went with the fish special of the day: a sauteed tilapia with a cream sacue, roasted new potatoes, and spinach with prosciutto. The server advised us that they're making some adjustments to the menu tomorrow, so Peter ordered the "Straw and Hay" pasta dish that's about to be discontinued. It was a mix of regular and spinach fettucine with peas and bacon in a light alfredo cream sauce. His was just okay (I see why it's coming off the menu), while mine was divine and should be a permanent menu feature. My dad's lamb chops must have been good because he didn't offer us any bites, and my mom went lighter and had a crab cake appetizer as her entree, trying to be mindful of the cruise they're going on in just a few weeks.

Convinced that we simply couldn't and shouldn't order dessert, we ended up talking ourselves into sharing a chocolate cake among the four of us. The cake itself was a bit bland and gelatinous, but the vanilla bean gelato and chocolate fudge drizzle on top made up for it, so we had no trouble polishing off the entire dish.

I sure am glad Peter gets along with his in-laws so well. I had a lovely time tonight and wouldn't mind repeating tonight's meal frequently.


The damage: I honestly have no idea. There are times I still act like a major daddy's girl and let him pay, hoping it makes him feel needed.

Watch out for: parking at the Levee. It's expensive to park there and seems specifically designed to make sure you can't find your car at the end of the night. I advise the lot across the street, if it's available, or the valet parking option either at the Levee or Tropicana.

Food: 3 out of 5 forks (though our meal was good, I just can't bring myself to go higher on a chain)

Romance: 4 out of 5 kisses (close your eyes, forget your in KY, and you might just be able to imagine you're in Tuscany)

Brio Tuscan Grille
1 Levee Way, Suite 1140
Newport, KY 41071
(859) 431-0900

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