WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Bravo! is a large regional chain of Italian restaurants which, like a number of other chains, have latched onto the dirty little secret of Italian food: if you have good recipes and are willing to diversify the menu beyond spaghetti and meatballs, you can create a restaurant that most Americans will find indistinguishable from the gourmet Italian places. They don't give you the top twenty percent that the best Italian restaurants do, and it's a far cry for the food served in Italy. And it's good enough that not even a gourmet would leave the place mad.
The quality of the pastas, sauces, cheeses, and vegetables are generally good, and used in well-constructed if fully Americanized versions of classic Italian dishes. The seafood is the weakest part of the menu; if there was any local seafood here, I couldn't find it. The dishes identified as "wood grilled" come from a grill fired mostly with gas, but with some sticks of wood in there. The flavor effect is insignificant.
Bravo! began with a single restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, and spread several dozen restaurants through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. It came the New Orleans by a family connection: Alton Doody, entrepreneur and Carnival royalty, opened the first of two on St. Charles Avenue. It closed after the hurricane, but the second location in Metairie survives. There's another New Orleans connection, according to the company's website: "Chris [Doody, who started Bravo! with his brother Rick] attended Tulane University in New Orleans to learn how to cook."
The interior design creates an interesting, faux ruins-of-the-Roman-Empire scene, spacious and comfortable.
Fried cheese ravioli.
Italian wedding soup (chicken broth with little meatballs and pasta)
Fried eggplant with crawfish fra diavolo.
Insalata rustica (interesting greens with sun-dried cherries, pecans, and pears).
Pesto tortelloni (little ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach).
Pasta Bravo! (with grilled chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce).
Pasta Woozie (Alfredo style with chicken and spinach).
Ravioli: crawfish and lobster, or braised beef.
Fruitti di mare (pasta with seafood).
Grilled pork chops.
Strip sirloin steak or filet mignon.
Affogato di gelato.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Come here for pasta, pizza, and salads are the best dishes. If you want to concentrate on meats or seafood, there are many better restaurants in the neighborhood. If you have been to Italy, fuggeddaboutit.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
No restaurant claiming to serve good food should be without local seafood, corporate menus notwithstanding. The management claims they have a chef in every location. Why not let him cook? And why is the first item on the menu spinach-artichoke cheese dip?
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color -1
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted