By Jess Watsky
Walking into Bricco, the sophisticated sibling of Grant’s Restaurant and Chef Billy Grant’s answer to traditional Italian-American cuisine, there is a certain perfume to the air, not unlike that of a cozy fireplace or heat-radiating oven in the winter. It is a masculine-scented place, with delicate touches that contrast its scent like a lumberjack with a penchant for playing the harp. This aura is enforced in the cuisine of Bricco, especially contained in their famous lobster grilled cheese sandwich ($16).
While Oprah’s Gayle King may have pooh-poohed this Connecticut treasure, it was apparent that the other diners were not dauntedby the hype and were simply drawn in to the playful nature of the cuisine. At least two lobster grilled cheese sandwiches passed under my nose before mine came out, and my eyes widenedas I watched happy diners dig in. At long last, my sandwich arrived. Between its two large slices of crispy, butter-grilled bread lay a bounty of lobster meat and Havarti cheese. Just two ingredients, but prepared so well. The sandwich brilliantly combined delicate and bold, savory flavors. It featured generous hunks of lobster, large pieces of claw and tail meat reminiscent of lobster rolls from the quintessential summer seafood shacks of Stonington or Mystic. The bread had a shatteringly loud, crispy crust not unlike a crème brûlée, yielding to a soft, fluffy interior. Grilled in butter, it was the ultimate handheld homage to lobster with drawn butter.
Just when we thought the sandwich was at its best, we dipped it au jus style into the sage brown butter, orange zest, and Amaretti cookie sauce from our ravioli appetizer, and what was once a symphony of flavors exploded into pure gustatory hedonism. The lobster’s natural sweetness was accentuated by the cookie and orange zest and cradled by the butter. I could have eaten this for breakfast like a savory stuffed French toast with this sauce as syrup. It was clearly at its best whisked from grill to plate with little wait in between. I was impressed that the lobster meat was incorporated into the sandwich without seeming like an afterthought to drive the price up by preparing your grilled cheese “Oscar style”. It was expertly prepared in large, tender pieces that were cut to fill all the nooks and crannies of the bread, down to the last crusty bite.
As for the rest of the menu, it is not to be ignored. Highlights from our meal included an absolutely scrumptious red grape, rosemary, and goat cheese flatbread ($6) and the aforementioned ravioli, filled with a mixture of chewy mozzarella and tender ricotta ($16). And while we were too full for dessert, we lusted over the olive oil cake with blueberry mascarpone and rhubarb gelato topped with a blueberry compote ($9) and a creamy Nutella pie laced with hazelnut caramel ($8). If you choose the crusted crustacean, specify that you would like it with onion rings.This is a sandwich to be savored with family, presented on holidays, shared with a lover, or chewed alone with a glass of champagne, toasting the inventor of the sandwich himself, Chef Billy Grant. We were left with the fleeting satisfaction of fullness and the indelible brand of love on our brains and stomachs.
78 Lasalle Road
West Hartford, CT, 06107
Monday through Thursday, 11:30-10, Friday and Saturday, 11:30-11, Sunday, 4-9
Appetizers range from $6-14, Entrees from $10-30