Brio Tuscan Grille, 12370 S. Main St. (at Monticello), Rancho Cucamonga
Filling the former Borders anchor space at Victoria Gardens, Brio opened in October, “bringing the pleasures of the Tuscan country villa to Rancho Cucamonga,” as their website puts it. (In return, maybe The Deli can bring the pleasures of Rancho Cucamonga to Tuscany?) It’s a national chain, but at 57 locations at this writing, it’s not ubiquitous; this is the first Brio in all of California. This puts the coup in Cucamonga.
Even though it’s not a bookstore, having the space occupied is welcome, and they’ve done a great job on the decor. Outside, protected seating with heat lamps; inside, a circular bar (where the new releases used to be displayed), then a dining room with a high ceiling, drapery and columns. For the Inland Valley, it’s a fairly dramatic dining space.
The evening began on a slightly discordant note when the employee seating us cheerfully declared, “We’re definitely not Olive Garden!,” a comparison that probably shouldn’t be made even jokingly. I would hope that if I were walking into, say, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, they wouldn’t quip, “We’re definitely not Sizzler!”
Anyway, we were seated in the former nonfiction section, probably around computer science or business. Yes, I miss Borders. The menu is less pasta than steaks, seafood, chicken and chops. As Italian goes, this is the anti-Vince’s Spaghetti. Entrees range from $11 to $30. I had a pork chop ($17.50, below), my friend the roasted half-chicken ($16, bottom).
Our entrees were decent: the chicken hormone-free and lemony, the pork chop large, marinated and relatively moist, by pork chop standards. However, my roasted vegetables were desiccated, and they were paired with mashed potatoes. Basically, I had two sides of dry stuff. (And, in the photos, compare the moistness of the veggies on our respective plates.) Oh well. We left full, with no room for dessert, and thankful we hadn’t ordered an appetizer.
I’ll give Brio a mixed review. It’s not bad, and you may want to try it. (In a weird sidenote, a top Google search result was a blog post by Philip K. Dick’s fifth wife about how she wants to go.) But we were hoping for a little better, and for the price, it didn’t knock our socks off. At the VG, I’m more likely to go to Lucille’s or, for a more modest meal, Corner Bakery. It’s possible I’ll return. If I do, in honor of Borders, I’ll bring a book.