“Brio”. The name of this restaurant alone implies a strong, yet romantic date night option. It rolls off the tongue quite effortlessly. Brio (for short) Tuscan Grill (for long) is located at International Plaza in Tampa. As soon as you walk into Brio’s entryway, you’re greeted by Tuscan tones all around. You forget for a second that you’re in a shopping plaza and instead feel like you’ve immersed into a warmly welcoming villa – complete with a large, dark statement staircase.
Ben and I were invited out by the restaurant to give Brio’s menu a try. While I had never visited Brio on my own before, I knew from coworkers at my job that it was a favorite among the office. By the time we arrived for our date night, my body was ready for all the pasta, meats, and carbs that Brio could serve my way. Italian restaurants are my favorite for this reason. The indulgence in the breads and pastas is always next level. We took our seat in a cozy booth next to the bar, and the plates of food began.
Brio had a fixed rotation of meals planned for us which was surprisingly a huge relief. While I love picking my meals out just as much as the next gal, I’ll admit that I was glad to not have to give our food choices much thought (given my level of hunger). Large white plates made their way towards us, as did an Espresso Martini and an Italian Margarita. We were able to try menu favorites of Brio’s without having to think twice about what to order. Ben and I were in Brio’s hands for the evening and we knew our appetites were going to be well taken care of.
The Beef Carpaccio portion was enormous – it could easily be ordered as a shareable among a group of friends. Ben and I, a party of two, devoured it. It was like a focused charcuterie plate with thinly sliced beef and honestly that was all it needed. The capers and mustard aioli made for perfect accompaniments. I’d head back to Brio just to order this alone.
I’m a BIG fan of bruschetta. At Brio, we tried two orders of theirs – the roasted red pepper bruschetta, and the shrimp scampi bruschetta. Admittedly, I’m not a big shrimp fan. Though the flavors played well together on the shrimp scampi option, the texture of shrimp is just something I have a hard time getting past. I want to stress that it’s totally a personal preference though. During the appetizer round, I inhaled the roasted red pepper bruschetta. I’m used to traditional bruschetta with diced tomatoes, but the red pepper version was a nice elevation to a classic favorite of mine. Topped off with balsamic glaze, it gave a perfect balance of savory flavors with a touch of balsamic-y sweetness.
I was full of appetizers, but ready to take my taste buds on a tour through some of Brio’s popular entree items: the Pasta Alla Vodka, the Grilled Salmon Fresca, and the New York Strip. Ben and I both lunged for the pasta dish first (obviously). Let me tell you – Brio’s spicy tomato cream sauce on this dish is what sauce dreams are made of.
Ben claimed the New York Strip as his own, while I took on the Grilled Salmon Fresca. We shared bites here and there, but were more than happy with our “I’m going to take this one” choices. The salmon dish had quite a few of my favorite toppings including red peppers, pesto vinaigrette, feta, and balsamic glaze. It was honestly hard to choose a favorite entree between the Salmon Fresca and the Pasta Alla Vodka. In my humble foodie opinion, it’s probably best to have another date night at Brio to settle this terrifically tasty debate. Hint hint, Benjamin.
It’s an unspoken rule that date night is never truly over until it ends on a sweet note. I sipped on a fresh Strawberry Fresca, Ben with a Cucumber Basil Gimlet, while Brio delivered both their molten chocolate cake and their tiramisu to our table for the ultimate indulgence. Ben and I alternated with bites of each, but the Tiramisu won me over with a sweet, sweet victory. Pun completely intended.
Our Brio date night was one for the books. Add this place to your list of date night spots in Tampa if you’re in the mood for a welcoming atmosphere and a hearty helping of Italian comfort food. Which, let’s be honest – when ISN’T that a preferred mood?
Thank you so much to Brio for hosting us for a date night! As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.